Therapy dogs aren’t just a teacher’s pet at these N.J. schools. They’re staff.

NJ Advance Media spoke with half a dozen administrators, counselors, and other school staff who, in the search for new therapeutic modalities, chose to bring a certified therapy dog into their schools on a permanent basis.

Providing support through loss, stress, and now a worldwide pandemic, these certified therapy dogs are more than pets — they’re invaluable members of the team said the individuals interviewed.

“We did what you’re supposed to do, we provided a safe space, but this young individual’s good friends were together and they still weren’t talking, and they weren’t talking to any adults either, they were just quiet,” Smith said in an interview.

According to, the district decided to bring in therapy dogs from Attitudes in Reverse (AIR) Dogs: Paws for Minds, a comprehensive program utilizing trained and certified therapy dogs to spark conversations about mental health and suicide prevention, which had previously visited the school during high-stress periods like midterms or finals. Smith observed the dogs as they went right up to the affected group of students “and whatever wall was around them just melted.”


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