West Ottawa needs therapy dogs


Lily Taylor

A welcoming therapy dog would be a great addition to WO’s classrooms.

Brooke Pedersen

Picture this: It’s a January morning, you are sitting in your high school and you look outside and see it’s cloudy like it has been the past three weeks. Your science teacher is lecturing on and on about human genetics. You look around and see one student is sleeping, one is doodling on his paper, and everyone else has a straight or gloomy face. Now imagine you feel something furry touch your leg. You look under your seat and see a big, black, wet nose moving upward. Then a furry chin lies on your knee and you see that it’s a big hairy dog that is beginning to stick out its tongue to give you kisses. You start to smile and the feeling of that dreadful January morning starts to fade.

   High school is hard. Even if you aren’t taking AP classes, it is super difficult to stay motivated and participate throughout the long school year. Especially during months like January and February when you are just about halfway through the year when the weather gets colder and there is less sunlight. During times like these, having a dog in school classrooms would be super beneficial. According to a study conducted by BarkBox, “71 percent of dog parents believe that their dogs have made them happier people. Almost 80 percent find it easier to awake in the morning because their dogs greet them.” Similar to the statistics of dog owners, I think West Ottawa would profit from having some dogs in schools. Students possibly would be more encouraged to not only attend school, but participate in classroom activities with a furry friend by their side.

   The number of therapy dogs has been increasing in the United States, not only for those with disabilities but also in classrooms. Schools have found that students benefit from having dogs be a part of their school in various ways. I most recently noticed this when I visited my old middle school, Harbor Lights. The dog would walk the halls and sit in a classroom, and lots of students would visit her throughout the day. This not only brought the students joy, but gave them something to look forward to and gave them a friend. 

   Stoney Creek High School, in Rochester, Michigan, has therapy dogs in their school. Stoney Creek High School soph. Ella Krajewski said, “They stay in some certain classrooms but during passing time they will sometimes be taken out and walk around the halls with the safe ed’s.” Stoney Creek High School’s soph. Joslyn Becker says, “We have three therapy dogs and everyone loves them so much they will often be walking around the halls and it makes everyone’s day and puts a smile on everyone’s face and it is always a great start to your day and makes everyone feel super comfortable at school.” Becker has experienced what it’s like to be around dogs at school and the outcome she has seen. Students are more excited and happy when seeing these dogs. I know there have been times at school when all I want to do is go home, but maybe I would feel otherwise if, when I left my classes at school, I saw a dog come walk beside me.

   Some students struggle with friendships, especially at school. Having dogs at school may give those students a sense of belonging and reduce their stress and worry from the school day, even if it is just for a moment of their day. Krajewski says, “In my opinion I think that if I’m ever in a bad mood or having a hard day at school, therapy dogs always help me even if it’s just seeing or being able to pet them.” West Ottawa High School is similar to Stoney Creek High School; they both are in Michigan, and the schools are similar in number of students. So if students at Stoney Creek High School are benefiting from having just a few therapy dogs, couldn’t our school, too?

   Having dogs in the classrooms at WO is a great idea, but I understand the idea may be hard to achieve. The amount of money that would need to be spent not only on the many dogs needed to be hired for our school, but also the trainers would be expensive, but affordable. Despite the idea having some negatives and being difficult to achieve, the overall positive effect on our school would be worth it. The change that dogs would bring to students and the overall environment at West Ottawa would be beneficial, especially during those dreary months, like that January morning.