Lapping up the Love
with Therapy Dogs to Relieve Stress
Thanks to an insightful Sayville Student who initiated the activity, high school exam anxiety was soothed by furry friends.
Sayville High School Junior Abi Newman had a great idea. In December, after reading a short article about PRAAT (Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy) and the advantages of pet therapy to relieve stress and anxieties, she immediately recognized its value. “Most students wrestle with the monster of anxiety, especially during testing,” Sayville High School Social Work Elizabeth Quinlan explained. “Abi decided to explore an idea that had the potential of diminishing the power of her well-acquainted adversary while benefiting all of her high school peers.”
During her December break, Abi learned about the organization. “PRAAT is a non-profit organization affiliated with Patchogue Rotary that provides pet therapy in many diverse locations (i.e., L.I. school districts, colleges, hospitals nursing homes etc.). Their certified therapy dogs and accompanying volunteers (some owners, some not) facilitate safe and rewarding interactions between dogs and those who need a strong dose of unconditional support.”
After considering their mission, Abi called and made an appointment to meet the people and pets as well as to inquire about their availability during midterms in January. Abi became “confident that canine visits would undermine the anxiety that she and her peers experienced during exam week,” and sought support from Ms. Quinlan. Ultimately the decision was Principal Ron Hoffer’s, but Abi had done her homework and brought the information and necessary documentation to assure him that the safety of all the students at Sayville High School would be upheld.
Abi’s inspired concept became a reality when six “wagging-tailed supporters” came to Sayville High School during exam week. “Loving, cuddly affectionate furry friends spent five hours over two days transforming anxious, worried students into relaxed, happy, chatty kids before and after taking their midterms,” Ms. Quinlan noted with delight, adding her personal praise. “Kudos to Abi Newman, for thinking outside the box and for giving her time and efforts so all students could reap the benefits of our tail-wagging, loyal friends!”