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Therapy dogs visit students, staff at district schools

Two furry siblings visited Webutuck schools Monday, March 18. The therapy dogs – McKinley and his sister Shasta -- visited with students and staff in the elementary school and with fourth graders in the intermediate school.

Therapy Dogs“He’s really sweet and very friendly,” said fourth-grader Chloe McGhee of McKinley.

McGhee, who has four dogs at home, had the chance to give McKinley a treat.

“I like to cuddle with them and I like to pet them because they’re soft,” said McGhee.

McKinley and Shasta are a 19-month-old mix of golden retriever and labrador retriever with Boots & Paws from Guardian Revival, a non-profit based in Beacon that provide free companion dogs to veterans and first responders.

Rachel Hill and Michele Massi, both of Boots & Paws, accompanied the dogs to the district schools. They had McKinley and Shasta start their visit with fourth graders at the intermediate school before taking the short walk to the elementary school. Students had the chance to meet the dogs and ask questions about the dogs.

Therapy Dogs“I think it’s very important for the kids to have an opportunity to have interactions with any animal, but a therapy dog is so beneficial in the classroom, and just looking at their smiles and their interests was so heartwarming,” said first-grade teacher Patricia Hammond.

Amanda Coppola, teacher on special assignment, and Scott Haire, school resource officer, worked with Danielle Mollica, executive director of Silo Ridge Community Foundation & Amenia-Wassaic Community Organization, in bringing McKinley and Shasta to the schools.

“It’s amazing seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Mollica. “Their interactions, their questions, that makes my heart melt. I love that.”

Coppola said this was the first of monthly visits for therapy dogs to district schools in the 2023-2024 school year. She added they will reassess where to take the program over the summer for 2024-2025 school year.

“I think it’s going really well,” she said of the first visit. “We really didn’t know what to expect and how different classes would approach it. Some classes are taking it as a break from schoolwork to pet and enjoy the dog.

“This is a really nice break for the kids during the day.”