Calming Canines: Love on a Leash Therapy Dogs Bring Comfort to Students

The students are able to take a break, relax, and interact with specially trained, calming canines

Braden Altrup


Alix Queen

(left to right) Lannah Montgomery (10) and Lauren Wiley (10) spend time with Cliff, an Australian Shepherd, at the library on Thursday, Sept. 29.

Loukya Vaka, Reporter

The new 9th hour Nest Time on Thursdays gives students the opportunity to work on school assignments and meet with teachers, among other things. However, this new addition to our everyday schedule also gives the library the chance to offer students new, fun things to experience every month. Now, for the first time after Covid hit, therapy dogs were brought in on Thursday, Sept. 29. 

Ms. Oliva, a librarian at Liberty, talks about why the therapy dogs were being brought back in now as an activity at the library.  

“Now, a lot of the Covid restrictions have been eased, so it made sense for us to be able to offer this as an opportunity again, but also having that 9th hour time has made it possible,” Ms. Oliva explains.  

This event, along with all of the other happenings at the library, was posted on their Instagram and Twitter pages. This month, 35 students were able to sign up on the library’s website, where all of the sign-ups for the opportunities at the library are posted, and came down to interact with the dogs that were brought in for the full hour of Nest Time. The four dogs that came to the school were Ruby; a 5-year-old Chow Chow, Cliff; a 10-year-old Australian Shepherd, Tug; a 11-year-old Standard Poodle, and Bandit; a 2 ½-year-old Weimaraner. 

Sophia Hegyi, a sophomore, explains why she wanted to come to this event.

“I do not have dogs, we have cats, but I absolutely love dogs,” Hegyi said. “Being able to pet them for an hour and a half was like a dream come true.”

(left to right) Amber Sethaler (10), Allie Rigby (10), and Clara Walker (10) pet the Standard Poodle named Tug on Thursday. They were three of the 35 students who signed up to meet therapy dogs. (Alix Queen)

These dogs came from the St. Charles County chapter of the organization called Love on a Leash. This non-profit group is comprised of many volunteers who have dogs that have been extensively trained to be able to help others as therapy dogs. This chapter is regularly working with many different people in the St. Louis area. Their main goal is to bring more people nationwide the feelings of happiness, comfort, and healing by making pet-provided therapy more known.

Sue Deems, Tug’s owner, mentions the several environments that the therapy animals visit.

“We go to libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools,” Ms. Deems says.    

Pet therapy is when a pet has been trained and certified with its owner to relieve stress and provide comfort in various different situations. Together, the pet and their owner work as a team to do this. 

Bandit’s owner, Jan Ferguson, further describes what therapy dogs do.

“These dogs have all been trained, they went to a lot of obedience classes,” Ms. Ferguson explained. “Therapy dogs are working dogs that provide any kind of therapy for people. It is their job to go see people.”   

(left to right to front) Jersey Goodall (11), Maya Davis (11), Heaven Reid (11), and Brandt Cleppe (10) around Bandit, the Weimaraner, at the library on Thursday, Sept. 29. (Alix Queen)

Linda Bolen, Ruby’s owner, spoke about how therapy dogs differentiate from regular dogs. 

“They need to make sure that they’re good around people, good in a lot of different situations, they need to listen to their owners,” Ms. Bolen states. “They take a 10-step test, and they have to know sit, down, come, stay, how to walk around a group of people, and how to walk around a group of dogs.”

The library has been planning for this event since early August, with the goal of letting students take a break, enjoy themselves, connect, and improve their social emotional well-being. 

Ms. Oliva talked about why she believes this opportunity is beneficial for the students who will be able to experience it.

“It ties back into that social-emotional wellbeing, it’s a chance in the middle of the day on Thursday to take a break and cuddle with a fuzzy animal,” Ms. Oliva said. “It brings all of us joy.” 

Pet therapy is very beneficial for our mental health and stress levels by letting us relax and feel happier, and pet therapy has even been proven to be a way to lower blood pressure and heart rate.  

Debi Cocciola talked about why she feels having therapeutic methods, such as these therapy dogs, is important for people, and especially students. 

Students enjoy the therapy dogs’ visit on Thursday, Sept. 29, and petting the Chow Chow, Ruby. (Alix Queen )

“There’s so much stress, and there’s always been stress when you’re a teenager. It is a very difficult time in many ways,” Ms. Cocciola says. “I think it’s important, everybody’s laughing and smiling, and they’re not even on their phones. I think it’s great for this age group.” 

For all of the students who were able to spend time with these dogs, this was a fun break in the day, and one that was greatly appreciated. The students were able to interact with these soothing dogs, with zero distractions and happy souls. 

Junior, Heaven Reid, talked about how she felt when she was around the dogs.

“It definitely made me feel happy, and less stressed with school,” Reid said.

Having access to therapeutic methods, such as therapy dogs, is so crucial for the development of people and mental stability as a whole, for when we can get that extra support when dealing with life’s challenges, our lives are greatly benefited. 

Brandt Cleppe, who is a sophomore, elaborated on this by talking about why he believes having access to these health-benefiting opportunities is needed.

(left to right) Noelle Wise (9) and Alyssa Donaldson (9) pet an Australian Shepherd, Cliff, during the therapy dogs’ visit at the library on Thursday, Sept. 29. (Alix Queen)  

“It really helps people go through things when their life is at its lowest point,” Cleppe explained. “Having something like a therapy dog, or other forms of therapy, can help them battle and survive.”

With all of the assignments, tests, and responsibilities, school itself can be very stress-inducing. This is why providing stress-relieving occasions, like bringing in the therapy dogs, is so significant for the students who are all tackling academics and all of its challenges. Therapy dogs are a fluffy, bright, and fun break from routine, which is something that is very needed to combat stress, sadness, and challenges. 

Many students have expressed that they hope that the therapy dogs return for another visit, including Noelle Wise, a freshman. Wise talked about why she would want the dogs to come to the school again. 

“Yes, 100 hundred percent because everybody loves it, and it’s a ton of fun,” Wise said. 

To find Love on a Leash’s Facebook Page, Click here!