by Graham England
Therapy dogs are dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people who might need it. Therapy dogs are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (but service dogs are covered) which means that buildings do not need to give them access to their places. Therapy dogs have been used in schools all over the country to provide students with help with conditions like anxiety and to reward students for good behavior. School therapy dogs can also be included in classroom work. For example, if a math class is working on measuring things, the dog can come into the class so students can measure the paw or tail of the dog. These dogs make a big difference in schools and outside of schools.
In Toledo, school therapy dogs are trained by the Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence (ADAI) which is a program of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. The ADAI program breeds puppies for service and therapy dogs. The dogs are trained for two years. The first year is spent with a foster family or in the prison program.
During the second year, the dogs meet their new owner or new handler at the school. The ADAI program has been around for 35 years. They have over 100 dogs in the community as service animals or therapy dogs.
Ottawa Hills at the moment is at the top of the list for receiving a school therapy dog from ADAI. The superintendent, Dr. Adam Fineske, is a big supporter of therapy dogs. Sylvania schools, the district Dr. Fineske previously worked at, have therapy dogs and the benefit of the dogs within the schools is evident. In order for Ottawa Hills to receive a therapy dog, we need a faculty member to volunteer to take care of the dog and take classes with the dog on how to work with students. With luck, we will all have a new furry friend soon.