Furry friends walk the halls of PV

Therapy dogs visit during Pascack Period


Matt Austin

Sophomores Ben Carter and Erin Vollers petting therapy dogs at the May 2019 wellness convention

When freshman Ally Harris experienced her first Pascack Period, she was excited to see a therapy dog. Harris was eager to pet them and was happy that they had come by for a visit. Just like many other freshmen, Harris had no clue that Pascack Valley had visits from Therapy Dogs.

“When I pet a dog it’s very stress relieving,” Harris said. “Having them here, it’s nice.”

For the last three years, four to five therapy dogs have visited the school twice a month during the Pascack Period, a free period scheduled every Wednesday where students can complete assignments or talk with their teachers. 

The Wellness Committee, a group of faculty and students, sponsors the therapy dog visits. This committee, which was formed four years ago, meets once a month to discuss topics relating to mental health and physical well-being in the PV community. In an effort to relieve the stress and anxiety that comes with being a student, the committee decided on bringing in therapy dogs. 

“With all the stress that sophomores and juniors have with taking harder classes, it really builds up,” PV junior Tyler Marzano said. 

Marzano has experience with the therapy dogs from being the owner of one, Charlie, as well as assisting his mother when bringing their dog to PV. 

“Whenever people see Charlie or other therapy dogs in the hallway, they always smile,” Marzano said. “I know I live with a dog — he is helpful with myself.”

Karen Koehler, a former PV Math and Science teacher who retired in 2012, decided to start bringing her dog into PV a year ago.

“I was very sick in [Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center] and a therapy dog came to visit,” Koehler said. “It made all the difference in the world to me.

Christine Rossig, one of PV’s student assistance counselors, sometimes brings her dog into her office. She believes that the students are calmer and more willing to open up when they are around her dog, Napoleone. 

“The kids are very relaxed and comforted by the dogs being there,” Rossig said. 

Principal John Puccio said that having the therapy dogs at school impacts the student body in a positive way.

“They are always looking forward to seeing the dogs,” Puccio said. 

The Wellness Committee acknowledged that some students would be afraid of the dogs or have other conflicts, such as allergies. Although it was decided that the benefits that the therapy dogs provide outweigh the potential risks, the committee still keeps these concerns in mind each time the dogs visit. 

“If anyone comes in and has any concerns regarding the dogs we address them, we work with the kids, and do what’s best for them,” Puccio said.