Students Produce Therapy Dog Video

Some Capital City Schools students have created a video that highlights Gracie, a professional therapy dog.  Gracie was adopted from the Helping Hands Humane Society by Stephanie Avila, a school psychologist with Topeka Public Schools.  Professional therapy dogs are used to teach tolerance, model good behavior, provide stress relief and teach students about responsibility. Gracie is one of five professional therapy dogs in Topeka Public Schools. 
You can view the student produced video at

501 Professional Therapy Dogs Lend a Paw

Did you know Topeka Public Schools “employs” a number of Professional Therapy Dogs? Although their salary is minimal, they are invaluable to their handlers by supporting them in the provision of their duties. These dogs are also highly valued by students as well as staff around the district.
“It isn’t unusual for us to barely sit down at our desks only to receive a phone call
 requesting that a student needs to see Gracie or Presto today”
—Stephanie Avila/Susan Ross at Landon Middle School
Topeka Public Schools currently has five full time Professional Therapy Dogs working alongside their handlers:
·         Stephanie Avila--School Psychologist, Capital City /Landon Middle School,& “Gracie” Australian Blue Heeler, &   “ Ian” German Shepherd, summer school and former Highland Park HS .
·         Deb Hess--Counselor, Meadows & “Cooper”--Welsh Corgi
·         Marilyn Homan--retired Counselor, THS volunteer & “Reward’--Labrador Retriever
·         Beth Robinett--Counselor, French Middle School & “Ryder” –Welsh Corgi
·         Susan Ross--Counselor, Eisenhower/Landon Middle Schools & “Presto”-Golden Retriever; “Herc” retired from Eisenhower, Beagle/Coonhound mix
While professional therapy dogs in the schools may seem like a novel idea, in actuality, Sigmund Freud used his Chow-Chow , Jo Fi,  in all of his therapy sessions. He noticed his dog had a calming effect on clients and could sense their mental state.
Research suggests that dogs lower blood pressure and overall enhance one’s health and well being. The professional therapy dogs that work for TPS have been trained through Canine Assistance Rehabilitation and Educational Services (CARES), Inc., located in Concordia, Kansas. They are dedicated to providing trained service dogs to people all over the world. These professional therapy dogs are trained on the same level as their service dogs. The program utilizes several breeders and also breeds some of their own dogs for service dog purposes.  A variety of breeds are used from Jack Russell Terriers to Mastiffs, even including a small number of rescue dogs. All dogs are tested for temperament, spayed or neutered and must pass health exams.
The service dogs graduate from training programs housed at several Kansas and Colorado correctional facilities. These programs are directed and overseen by C.A.R.E.S., Inc. The dogs are all trained to support people (mobility trained), taught sign language, know 43 basic commands, and are even trained for basic search and rescue.
Once the dogs are certified for their specialty work, they are assigned an owner/handler, who has applied to C.A.R.E.S., Inc., and are then required to complete a rigorous one to two week training program which usually entails a day from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Owners/handlers must pass the public access test with their dogs to be certified as “Assistance Dog Teams.” The exam meets the standards of Assistance Dogs International and is in compliance with Kansas Law (KSA 39-1101 and KSA 39-1113). It is very important to understand that professional therapy dogs are working dogs, not simply pet visitation dogs (which are great too!)  nor, dogs that simply wander around the school. They have a specific job!
Professional Therapy Dog means: a dog which is selected, trained, and tested, to provide specific physical or therapeutic functions under the direction and control of a qualified handler who works with the dog as a team, and is part of the handler’s occupation or profession.
Professional Therapy Dogs are used to:
·         Build reading enhancement programs
·         Teach tolerance
·         Model good behavior
·         Serve as a motivation for students and staff
·         Build rapport
·         Serve as a reward for students
·         Provide stress relief
·         Ease depression
·         Teach students about responsibility
·         Model lifelong learning
Thanks for recognizing TPS’s professional therapy dogs and how they enhance the lives of those they serve. For any additional questions you may have regarding professional therapy dogs and what the package entails, please contact Stephanie Avila at Capital City and/or Susan Ross at Eisenhower/Landon Middle Schools.

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