Pet therapy dogs bring smiles to Gulfport High students and staff

To help learn about mental health, students at Gulfport High School decided to invite some furry friends to class today.

Students were greeted with wagging tails and smiling furry faces inside of Mrs. Katheryn White’s English class thanks to Gulfport Behavioral Health bringing in some of their pet therapy dogs. Mrs. White says the students were learning about ways of coping with depression, anxiety, and grief as a lesson plan when they stumbled upon an article about pet therapy dogs. “It was to help students who were coping with stressors and loss. So, basically, we went through the article and we were kind of analyzing it, taking it apart.”

After doing some research the students realized that pet therapy dogs help with promoting a positive atmosphere in the classroom and also help reduce stress so the students decided to persuade their administration to allow them to have pet therapy dogs inside of their classrooms. “It kind of became a challenge. I said, well I think it’s something we can try and honestly the argument I made was if we are going to do this, we have to have the research, we have to have the evidence. We have to really be able to sell it.”

Keasia Johnson, a student in Mrs. White’s class, says the dogs coming on campus really lifted her spirits, especially due to the pandemic. “We weren’t able to have pep rallies, do a lot of field trips with each other because of the pandemic. So, dogs coming on campus really helped a lot.”

With so much going on in today’s world, Stephen East, director of business development at Gulfport Behavioral Memorial Health, stresses the importance of identifying mental health issues and finding ways to cope with them. “You know, sometimes just having a dog come in that does tricks, that rolls over, that you can pet, gives you that soothing feeling, it gives you something to think about other than the problems that you have immediately.”

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