First Lady Justice introduces two new friends with paw therapy dogs at puppy rallies

MOOREFIELD AND MARTINSBURG, West Virginia – First Lady Cathy Justice today visited Moorefield Elementary School and Spring Mills High School for ‘Pup Rallies’ to celebrate the arrival of the state’s next therapy dogs in the program Friends With Paws Communities In Schools (CIS).

The dog featured in today’s Pup Rally at Moorefield Elementary School is named Shadow. It’s a black Labrador.

The dog featured in today’s Pup Rally at Spring Mills High School is named Jet. It’s a yellow Labrador.

“This is a wonderful day for our students,” First Lady Justice said. “Shadow and Jet will receive so much love at these schools, and in return, what they are able to give back in emotional support to students with trauma will be invaluable.”

First announced in March, the Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs at various CIS schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort to students who need a boost.

Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and support to people in various stressful environments. They can help people feel comfortable, improve mood, relieve anxiety, and break down social barriers. Therapy dogs are highly trained and certified to show their ability to work in stressful environments, ignore distractions, and provide therapy to people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances.

After today’s two ceremonies, students and staff had a chance to say hello to their new therapy dog.

“The biggest benefit of having Shadow at Moorefield Elementary School is the effect on students’ social-emotional development,” said Wade Armentrout, Principal of Moorefield Elementary School. “Our students and staff have already bonded with Shadow. Interacting with Shadow will improve students’ reading skills, boost memory and problem-solving abilities, and even improve motor skills.

“We have been looking forward to Jet’s arrival at Spring Mills High School and welcome him to our school campus today,” said Mark Salfia, Principal of Spring Mills High School. “Our staff are confident that Jet will play a key and unique role in the social and emotional learning environments and supports we create through Communities In Schools that will benefit our students and staff.

“I want to thank our school community for embracing and supporting Jet,” Salfia continued. “Our appreciation to First Lady Cathy Justice for her personal visit today and her complete faith in the Friends With Paws program and how it will support the students of Spring Mills High School when they need a little comfort, care or a boost for their day. ”

The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Office of the Governor, West Virginia CIS Nonprofit, and the West Virginia Department of Education. Therapy dogs are placed in schools in CIS counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, drug addiction or other risky situations, and have the greatest need for a support animal. Dogs serve as a healthy and friendly outlet for these students to process trauma and other social-emotional issues.

Schools that have previously received therapy dogs through the Friends With Paws program include:

  • Coal, a male black Labrador, at Welch Elementary, McDowell County
  • Foster, a male Golden Labradoodle, at Buckhannon Academy Elementary, Upshur County
  • Jasper, a female yellow Labrador, at Lewis County High School, Lewis County
  • River, a male yellow Labrador, at elementary school in Pineville, Wyoming County

In October, Wayne Elementary School in Wayne County will receive a female Apricot Labradoodle named Winnie and Lenore PK-8 in Mingo County will receive a male Black Lab named Kylo. Friends With Paws also plans to place a therapy dog ​​at CIS schools in Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties later this year.

Ten dogs will be placed in CIS schools in West Virginia in 2022. In 2023, Friends With Paws hopes to place ten additional dogs in CIS schools. The therapy dogs will belong to each school and will be part of the community.

A 2019 study published by the National Institute of Health found that having a dog in the classroom promotes a positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body.

Additionally, research shows that the simple act of petting animals triggers an automatic relaxation response. Therapy animals reduce anxiety and help people relax, provide comfort, reduce loneliness and increase mental stimulation. They have also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, reduce the amount of medication some people need, help control breathing in people with anxiety, and decrease overall physical pain, among other profound benefits.