BEECH GROVE, Ind. (WISH) — A Beech Grove school is using the calming presence of dog therapy to help improve student behavior and emotional well-being.
South Grove Intermediate School added a dog to their school staff late last year. Finley, a seven pound Chiweenie, was given to a staff member by a student’s parent.
Finley started coming to the school as a puppy, but no one expected the impact he would have.
“We started seeing how he interacted with the kids, how he responded to them and he’s just kind of been here this whole time,” school adviser Melissa Keeley said.
Finley now has a lot of jobs at the school.
“Sometimes kids come and read to him,” Keeley explained. “He helps some kids calm down when they’re having a breakdown. We have kids who need a break or are angry. I mean, how can you look at a puppy and not feel better.”
Nathanial Hollcraft is now in sixth grade, but dealt with behavior problems last year. He changed his behavior for the better when he had incentive to spend time with a dog.
“Last year I had some problems,” Hollcraft said. “I used to get mad at the teachers when it was really myself who was doing the bad actions. When I saw him it was just a feeling of joy when I come down here and visit him when I would get angry.”
Aniya Burhannon is in fourth grade and sometimes deals with emotional issues during school.
“Sometimes I’ll get mad at my teacher and run out of the classroom without asking. I pet him and that helps me and when I hold him and give him treats,” Burhannon said.
South Grove has a positive behavior reward system. To spend 20 minutes with the dog, students have to earn 500 points by being prepared, responsible and respectful. Some students have already used 1,500 points this year.
Since South Grove picked up the four-legged friend last year, the Beech Grove middle and high schools have also gotten therapy dogs.