Why a Therapy Dog Should Return to BFA

Photo credit: Cpl. Kristine Koch

Murphy Photo credit: Cpl. Kristine Koch

Andrew Weinstein, Contributor

If someone were to walk into the main office of Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans, one of the first things which would immediately stand out is the wall of photos. Marked out in black are the words “Where Is Murph?” The therapy dog Murphy along with his partner Cpl. Kristine Koch, the school’s most recent SRO, had a relatively brief stint here at BFA; however, in the duration that he was present at the school, “seeing the dog was a way to brighten students’ days,” BFA Principal Brett Blanchard said. Unfortunately, Murphy’s stay at the school came to an end recently as the SRO was removed in favor of a Security Officer. Therapy dogs in schools have shown to be well-liked and improve the attitudes of both students and staff. Because of this, and the fact that our previous dog was so well-liked, I believe that BFA should see to it that a therapy dog returns to the halls.

The implementation of this therapy dog into the school would be something of an issue. The questions of who is the individual(s) that would take care of the dog, who will be paying for supplies that might be needed and where will it be staying when not at the school are all things that need to be answered before a new therapy dog can join BFA. In the past, these issues were resolved by Cpl. Koch as she was able to provide for Murphy; however, as the new dog will not have a designated partner to start with, new solutions must be found. 

As the dog would be something of a staff member here at BFA, their expenses would likely be handled by the administration. This could take the form of a new therapy dog program. When considering handling issues, the guidance department would likely be tasked with taking care of the dog. The dog also likely wouldn’t be able to stay at the school throughout the night; someone from the department could even be tasked with the role of caretaker in and out of school.

In schools with similar programs such as Noble High School, the dogs were made a part of the guidance department. They were given a designated handler who would be tasked with handling the dog’s living conditions outside of school as well as accompanying them during work hours. Noble High School’s therapy dog program could provide a good model for how therapy dogs could be implemented at BFA.

With the issue of the dog’s management being addressed, another thought arises. What do the students think? In a poll of the student body, 96.4% of the 110 individuals who responded said that they would vote to get a new therapy dog at BFA. It is clear that there is a demand to get a new therapy dog and according to the same poll, 80.9% of those individuals also believe that having a therapy dog at BFA improved the attitudes of students.  

For those who dislike dogs, getting a new therapy dog may be something that they are apprehensive about; however, for those people, I would tell them that therapy dogs are specially trained to be extremely friendly and positive toward people. Even for someone with a fear of dogs, getting a new therapy dog has the potential to become a positive experience as they become accustomed to them.

On all fronts, getting a new therapy dog at BFA seems like a great decision.  As such, the students of BFA should ask to have a therapy dog return to the school.