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Pet-assisted therapy brings comfort to the JC community

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This school year, the JC community will be getting a new addition. Starting this fall, Max, a four-year-old Australian Shepherd and Lab mix, will be available in School Counselor Jennifer Behler’s office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for anyone who wants to visit him. Max has been certified by a volunteer based non-profit agency based in Delaware, called Paws for People, to take part in pet-assisted therapy.

“Pet-assisted therapy is having a nice, friendly, calm pet available for people who are maybe anxious or depressed or they can’t really verbalize it, but they need to just decompress or sit with the animal and pet it,” Ms. Behler said.

According to a study in the US National Library of Medicine called “Oxytocin and Cortisol Levels in Dog Owners and Their Dogs Are Associated with Behavioral Patterns: An Exploratory Study,” spending time with a dog and engaging in activities like petting or playing releases a hormone in the brain called oxytocin, which is associated with a better mood. Ms. Behler agrees with this and hopes Max will be a help in the community. “If you’re an animal person you know what I’m talking about. It kind of boosts your mood without really trying,” Ms. Behler said.

Max’s certification is something that has been in progress for quite some time. “I myself am an animal lover, so I’m a big fan of dogs especially. I know when I have a rough day and I come home to his wagging tail he just makes me feel better, so it’s always been something in the back of my mind that I wanted to do with him. He’s been very energetic up until three and a half, four, so he finally got to a place where I felt like I could do it with him,” Ms. Behler said.

On the days Max is at school, he will stay in Ms. Behler’s office and be available to any student. However, for those who are scared of or allergic to dogs, there will be a sign on the office door, and Ms. Behler will be able to relocate Max to talk with them.

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Pet-assisted therapy brings comfort to the JC community