We visited our second school, The Pines Christian School, and we learned quite a bit from them. This time we were dealing with 1st graders, and they were a bit more rowdy than the preschoolers were. But it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle, as well as we enjoyed this experience because we appreciated the individuality of each class we visited. This time around it was the same routine as when we went to our first school, and we got the same responses, which is good because it indicates that something is happening. But to not bore you with another article the same as the first, I will explain why we do what we do. We go to classes with an emotional support animal, and the book that we wrote to help raise awareness for depression in kids. We decided to do this as our senior project because we came across an article that stated “children ages 3 to 6 are being diagnosed with chronic depression”, and this research was done on a classroom environment. My group and I decided that something needed to change, there had to be some sort of hope in their little growing minds. So we came up with a book that has a story about how Jack Jack became an emotional support animal, but in a way that interests the kids. And we visited the classrooms and read them the book as well as brought Jack Jack with us for the kids to pet. Because bringing a dog into an environment where the kids may be sad increases serotonin levels, which then increases happiness for the kids if they were already sad. And if they weren’t already sad it still cheers them up. We hope that with each classroom we visit we leave a lasting impression, and give the kids something to think about when they’re sad.
The first school that we went to, to share our project was Ocean view Preschool. They were so gracious to let us into their school and share with this project with the kids. We started this meeting by introducing ourselves to the children, and letting them pet Jack Jack. To which none of the kids had a problem with, and all seemed to be excited with the idea of petting him. Then we moved on to talking to the kids and getting them warmed up to us and the dog. Which is the most important step because without having them share and talk, it would defeat the purpose of us trying to reach out to them. As well as we would not have their full attention because they would feel awkward with three random teenagers talking to them. After they were warmed up with our presence and the dogs presence we moved on to ask them how many of you have ever been sad before, and every kid including the teaches raised their hands. Mind you we were talking to 4, 5, and 6 year old kids and they grasped the emotion of sad. While some of these kids were dealing with being sad over not getting the toy they wanted, others were dealing with being sad over being bullied or losing someone to death. It was eye opening as our first visit and shocking to say the least. We then moved on to our next question which was “How many of you felt happy when Jack Jack entered the room?”. And there every hand was raised once again, which was heart warming and amazing because we felt like we were really close to reaching our goal which was making these kiddos happy. We closed our group session with them by reading the book and telling them that there is always someone there for you when you are feeling down, as well as it is okay to talk about your feelings. We left them our book, and told them that in the back it was free for them to draw, write, and create their own story. Which the kids were ecstatic to the idea, and once we left the kids waved by to us and Jack Jack. That was the first experience we had and definitely not our last.
Sometimes when you’re down, all it takes is a lick to the face or a furry cuddle to lift your spirits. But what if your stress runs deep, if you’re anxious and nervous to leave the house, and find yourself depressed or even suicidal—can a dog still help bring you back?
There are many stories about how dogs have helped individuals with depression; Julie Barton’s poignant memoir Dog Medicine is among the best-known. What’s exciting is that formal research also shows that service and companion animals are effective at treating depression and anxiety, as well as improving overall health.
It’s possible to train a dog for service certification without going through an organization, though it takes a lot of work. A well-reviewed guide like this one is a good starting place. Also, certain breeds are more commonly used for service work, but many different breeds can make wonderful therapy animals. Not sure of a dog’s breed makeup? Dog DNA tests can provide valuable insight. This test receives high marks for accuracy.