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Shongum Elementary School Brings In Therapy Dog to Help Students

Vanessa Camargo

Thursday, May 15, 2014 • 11:05pm

RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph School System continues to show that it will do what it takes to accommodate their students. Nothing shows more proof than Shongum Elementary’s newest idea to bring a therapy dog to school.

Christine Fugger has been the school psychologist at Shongum since 2011. She works as a part of the Child Study Team as well, and helps determine whether a student qualifies for a special education. Fugger attended a webinar that Director of Special Services, Danielle Hamblin, held on therapy dogs.

After Fugger saw a particular student struggling, the idea of a therapy dog came to mind. “The idea came because some of our students basically needed a little boost,” said Fugger.

Fugger got in touch with Parks and Recreation Director, Russ Newman, through Hamblin, to start bringing a therapy dog to Shongum for Meola. Newman has been going to the school almost every Friday for the last two months for a half hour with his trusty therapy dog, Turner.

“The dog really, I think, indirectly helps them achieve in the classroom,” said Fugger. “Teachers have commented that the kids are more enthusiastic because they’re happier.”

Every Friday students are invited to the Therapy Dog Session to play with and pet Turner. The kids even hide doggie treats around the room so that Turner can search around to find them.

Turner has inspired Nicholas Meola so much in school that he even put together a PowerPoint presentation for his class project on therapy dogs. At their last session, the kids were able to learn more about what a therapy dog is with Meola’s presentation.

A therapy dog is a trained dog that provides affection and comfort to people. They can go to several locations like schools, hospitals, retirement homes, disaster areas and hospices. There are all types of therapeutic animals, not just dogs. Thia can include cats, bunnies, horses, llamas and even dolphins can all be a helpful form of treatment for individuals of any ages.

“I would say it helps you emotionally,” said Shongum student, Drew Glauberg.

This is exactly what a therapy dog is meant to do. The goal of these therapeutic animals is to improve a person’s social, emotional or cognitive function.

Turner was rescued from a kennel and is currently eight years old. He underwent surgery for a herniated disc in his neck in 2010 that kept him from becoming a therapy dog at an earlier age. After his recovery, Newman took Turner to an animal communicator who immediately knew that Turner wanted to become a therapy dog.

“The kids have just blossomed they seem so much happier. They come back from these sessions and they’re bouncing off the walls,” said Fugger. “Kids are more talkative. It just cheers them up all day long.

Turner has done a great job uplifting the students of Shongum. One student loves him so much that he has a picture of Turner on his desk.

The student that inspired the start of the Therapy Dog Sessions has drastically improved since the meetings began. Two months ago Meola was showing frustration adapting to some new challenges at school. Now coping has been easier thanks to Turner. He comes to school everyday looking forward to his Friday sessions with Turner.

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