Meet Annie and Davie, therapy dogs who will be alongside students at two Onalaska schools.
The therapy dogs are English Cream golden retrievers and can help students get acclimated to a new environment.
“I know at the beginning of the year a lot of kids are nervous and we talked about how Davie was nervous,” said Diane Hill, a teacher at Northern Hills Elementary and Davie’s owner. “You could tell that because she was panting hard and how when the kids would pet her it just kind of calms them and it calmed the dog down as well.”
While Davie has only just started at Northern Hills Elementary School, Annie is entering her second year at Onalaska High School.
“I’ve seen that it reduces stress levels with students, it’s given them somebody to trust,” said Chrissy Delong, a school counselor at Onalaska High School.
Annie’s owner loves that Annie can be a friend to those who need it.
“I see all kinds of kids embracing her,” said Yvonne Smaby, a paraprofessional at the high school and Annie’s owner. “Kids who might otherwise feel a little lonely in school will often visit her.”
Annie has become a celebrity in the last year. She has her own page in the yearbook, an Instagram handle, and often gets recognized by adults outside of school.
Counselors say that sometimes a therapy puppy, like Davie, can help a student process their feelings before they’re ready to talk to an adult.
“They would sit down next to Annie, pet her, and then be able to move on to like meeting with me or another counselor to be able to really talk about what was going on,” Delong said.
Before heading to second grade, Davie visited nursing homes. She has already been impacting students during these first few days. One of those students was an upset preschooler.
“When they let her out there, she just went up to that child and just sat there and she started petting her,” Hill said. “Pretty soon she stopped crying and was smiling within a couple of minutes.”
Both Annie and Davie are certified therapy dogs and both schools look forward to the impact they will make this year.