MOUNDSVILLE, WV — First Lady Cathy Justice announced today the state’s next therapy dog through her Friends With Paws program has been placed at Washington Lands Elementary in Marshall County.
The dog is named Meadow, a female Yellow Labrador, and she rounds out the Friends With Paws therapy dog program for 2023.
“Washington Lands Elementary is such a wonderful place," First Lady Justice said. "I know that Meadow will thrive there and the students will appreciate the calm sense of purpose she brings to the school. I hope she brings comfort and joy to everyone she comes across. We plan to expand the Friends With Paws program in 2024, and I cannot wait to see the great work to be done by these amazing dogs.”
The Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in several schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need of a boost. Since April 2022, 19 Friends With Paws therapy dogs have been placed across the state.
Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and support to people in various tense environments. They can help people feel at ease, improve their mood, relieve anxiety, and remove social barriers. Therapy dogs are highly trained and certified to show their ability to work in stressful environments, ignore distractions, and provide therapy to people with diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
Students and staff had the chance to greet Meadow during an assembly at the school today.
“Our entire school and community are thrilled to welcome Meadow to Washington Lands. For years my teachers have expressed how much they believe a therapy dog could benefit our students, and through this amazing program and with the support, generosity, and kindness of our First Lady, Cathy Justice, we now have the opportunity to make that happen,” Principal Julie Sturgill said. “The anticipation for Meadow's arrival has been building, and everyone was so excited to get to see her walking throughout our halls today.”
The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, Communities In Schools (CIS) West Virginia 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, a female Apricot and White Labradoodle, at Wayne Elementary School, Wayne County
- Kasha, a female Yellow Labrador, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Pocahontas County
- Marshal, a male Cream Labradoodle, at Hinton Area Elementary School, Summers County
- Louie, a male Yellow Labrador, at Bridgeview Elementary School, Kanawha County
- Oakley, a male Apricot and Cream Labradoodle, at Oakvale Elementary School, Mercer County
- Ruby, a female Golden Retriever, at Greenbrier East High School, Greenbrier County.
- Malfoy, a male Yellow Labrador, at Chapmanville Intermediate School, Logan County.
- Tora, a female Yellow Labrador, at Elkins High School, Randolph County.
- Skye, a female Brown Labradoodle, at Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County
- Penny, a female Yellow Labrador, at Pendleton County Middle/High School, Pendleton County.
- Nutter, a male Brown Labrador, at Ravenswood High School, Jackson County.
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.