Wayne Hills Introduces “Pets for Less Stress”


Photo taken by Emily Kozak

By Emily Kozak

Wayne Hills High School started to bring in service dogs to help with the stress and anxiety students face, in an initiative called “Pets for Less Stress.” However, this isn’t the first year that therapy dogs have been at Wayne Hills. It was done years prior but was canceled due to COVID-19.

This year, therapy dogs are coming to Wayne Hills twice a month: every other Wednesday of the month. Wayne Valley has also started bringing therapy dogs in. Besides working in schools, these dogs work in places like nursing homes, hospitals, and colleges. Many colleges have also been bringing therapy dogs in during finals week.

“I think that the school day can be very stressful, it gives some students a break in the day and something to look forward to,” said Guidance Counselor Ms. Kartsakalis. Kartsakalis is the school’s guidance counselor who has been working on bringing the therapy dogs to Wayne Hills. In the school she worked in previously, they had a permanent therapy dog. Kartsakalis saw the positive impact it had on students in her other school and that’s why she worked on bringing therapy dogs here.

“When I was an interim at a school years ago, they had a permanent therapy dog in a special needs class. The dog brought students happiness and something to look forward to. It increased attendance and academics, “said Ms. Kartsakalis.

Students may have lots of stressors at home so escaping that in school can help improve their mood.

Hana and Photographer Janae Murray.

Hana, a gray Skye Terrier, and her owner Sue Chandler have been working with students at Wayne Hills these past two weeks. Hana has been working as a therapy dog for three years.

To become a therapy dog, Hana had to get certified by an organization-specific to therapy dogs as well as be in good health receiving all the necessary vaccinations. Hana and Sue have worked at other places in Wayne like assisted living facilities. This also isn’t Hana’s first time in a school; Hana has also worked on college campuses in the past. As Sue mentioned, many students miss their dogs at home so to see a dog on campus was great for them.

“It’s a friendly furry friend and it helps alleviate stress in students, whether they’re waiting for college acceptance or taking a test next period,” says Hana’s owner.

Wayne Hills also brought another new dog this time, Bailey. The tiny, fuzzy white dog, which is a Shih Tzu Poodle mix, has been working in schools for a while too. Bailey works at high schools, nursing homes, colleges, and goes to the library to read to kids. He is eight years old and was an eighth-grade graduation present. When Bailey got taken out of his cage to be given to his owners, he grabbed a toy and ran off, and that’s how they knew he was the one. Bailey also had to get certified within an organization for therapy dogs where they assess his ability to react to commands. Bailey had to go through proper training, learning commands like “Sit” and “Stay” as well as being trained not to be or become aggressive at times.

“The dogs were really cute and it helped me de-stress for the day,” said Sophmore Noor Rana.

Therapy dog Gary and his owner.

The big white mountain dog, Gary, is probably everyone’s favorite. Gary is a Great Pyrenes dog that is probably more built like a bear than a dog. For example, a couple of weeks ago Gary chased a bear out of his owner’s backyard. However,  his intimidating appearance is nothing like his personality, Gary is probably the calmest out of all the dogs. Gary is ten years old and was a rescue adopted when he was five.

Pyrenees dogs are hard to train since they rather are independent and are naturally hunter dogs that work with herds of animals, like sheep. However, Gary is affiliated with an organization that specifically helps disabled and handicapped children.

Overall, Wayne Hills students seem to have had positive opinions about the therapy dogs. This helped us all de-stress for the day and get a little break from school.