First Lady Justice introduces newest Friends With Paws therapy dog during Pup Rally at Wayne Elementary School


WAYNE, WV - First Lady Cathy Justice visited Wayne Elementary School for a “Pup Rally'' today to celebrate the arrival of the state’s next therapy dog through the Friends With Paws Communities In Schools (CIS) program.
The dog introduced at today’s event is named Winnie. She is an Apricot and White Labradoodle.
“It is my pleasure to welcome Winnie to Wayne Elementary,” First Lady Justice said. “I can already tell that she will be a tremendous asset to the school community.”
First announced in March, the Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in various CIS schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need of a boost.

Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide support to people in various tense environments. They can help students feel at ease, improve their mood, relieve anxiety, and remove social barriers. Friends With Paws therapy dogs are highly trained and certified to show their ability to work in stressful environments, ignore distractions, and provide therapy to children of all ages with diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
Following today’s ceremony, students and staff had the chance to greet Winnie.

“Winnie will bring much joy and more to Wayne Elementary," Principal Melissa Maynard said. “We know she will offer comfort when needed and bring excitement to the students when they are celebrating accomplishments and goals they have set out to achieve. We are honored to be among the schools chosen to house Communities In Schools and now our wonderful Friends With Paws therapy dog Winnie.”
The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, West Virginia CIS Nonprofit, and the West Virginia Department of Education. Therapy dogs are placed in schools within CIS counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse, or other at-risk situations, and are in the greatest need of a support animal. The dogs serve as a healthy and friendly outlet for these students to address trauma and other social-emotional issues.

Schools that previously received therapy dogs through the Friends With Paws program include:
  • Coal, a male Black Labrador, at Welch Elementary, McDowell County
  • Foster, a male Golden Labradoodle, at Buckhannon Academy Elementary, Upshur County
  • Jasper, a female Yellow Labrador, at Lewis County High School, Lewis County
  • River, a male Yellow Labrador, at Pineville Elementary School, Wyoming County
  • Shadow, a male Black Labrador, at Moorefield Elementary School, Hardy County
  • Jet, a male Yellow Labrador, at Spring Mills High School, Berkeley County
  • Kylo, a male Black Labrador, at Lenore PK-8 School, Mingo County
Winnie is the eighth Friends With Paws therapy dog to be placed this year. Later this month, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School will receive a female Yellow Labrador named Kasha. The Office of First Lady Justice plans to continue this initiative through 2023. The therapy dogs will belong to each individual school and will become part of the community.

More information about Friends With Paws can be found in Communities In Schools: Friends With Paws, a documentary produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Click HERE to view the documentary.
A 2019 study published by the National Institute of Health found that a dog’s presence in the classroom promotes positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body.

In addition, research shows that the simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response. Therapy animals lower anxiety and help people relax, provide comfort, reduce loneliness, and increase mental stimulation. They are also shown to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, reduce the amount of medications some people need, help control breathing in those with anxiety, and diminish overall physical pain, among other profound benefits.

Contact Information

Jordan Damron,; CJ Harvey,


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