Last summer, Facility Dog Major was placed with Kristin, a school psychologist at one of the public schools in Tacoma, WA, as part of the school’s pilot program. Major has been a welcome, furry face around the halls of the high school, and this Facility Dog team has made a big impact already. We recently chatted with Kristin about what the first few months have been like with Major.
Q: What inspired you to apply for a Facility Dog?
Kristin: During and following school shutdowns in response to Covid-19, I noticed an increase in student mental health concerns. In my work as a school psychologist, I often interact with students with disabilities, and I quickly became concerned about how much my students were struggling. I began brainstorming different ideas of how to support these kids creatively. I’ve always believed in the healing power of animal-human interactions and began researching how I could bring this into my work.
Q: How did you feel when you heard Major would be placed with you? Do you remember when you first met him and what that was like?
As I worked through the application and screening process to be partnered with a Facility Dog, I continued to get more excited as I thought of more ideas of how a furry companion could support my students. My dream was to be partnered up before the school year started. I was thrilled when I heard that Major and I would be matched and begin training together the week before school started for the 2022-2023 school year! Our fabulous trainer, Jess, came by the house to begin our training together, and Major immediately seemed comfortable! I knew we would have a great time working together.
Q: How has Major helped students?
Major has already had a huge impact on our school community. Overall, any student in our high school building can come meet with me and Major if they have teacher permission; they all really seem to enjoy practicing his commands, especially “lap” when he lays his front legs and head on top of you! He has been hugely helpful in helping students processing grief around losing a family member, those with heightened anxiety around being in a classroom setting fulltime for the first time in two years, and those who are having an anxiety attack and need deep pressure and unconditional love to help reset.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to puppy raisers, volunteers and donors for their role in making these dogs possible?
My students, staff, and I are forever grateful for the people and organizations who have made this sort of support possible. Dogs for Better Lives has changed the way my students receive support at my school. The people that raised and helped train Major (and all those who support through this program) have helped to shape an animal that provides immeasurable support and relief to everyone he meets. He has already changed the lives of so many young people in his short time working with me at my school building and I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish as a team in the future!
Facility Dog Major has his own Instagram page! Follow along with his adventures: @majortherapylab
Facility Dogs are trained to do specific, skilled tasks and placed with working professionals or volunteers to help support them in their work with vulnerable populations and persons with disabilities (physical, mental, cognitive, sensory, or developmental). Learn more about Facility Dogs and apply to receive a dog for your workplace: dogsforbetterlives.org/facility-dogs