Marana school gets therapy dog

Marana school gets therapy dog

MARANA, AZ - One school in the Marana Unified School District is turning to a dog for help, and it's actually helping students cope.

Tortolita Middle School just started using a therapy dog.

His name is Loki. He's a 120-pound four-year-old Pyrenees.

He stops by the school once a week to help students who are having a hard time opening up during counseling sessions.

Tuesday was the third time at the school and counselors said they have noticed a difference in students.

"I see big smiles, I see relationships changing that I have with students," said Kristen Lopez, counselor at Tortolita Middle School. "I had one student who was very upset and had a hard time speaking with me about what was going on. I invited the student to meet with Loki; the next week the student came in and spent some time with Loki. And he would not leave the student's side, just really felt she needed that love and encouragement."

Loki works one-on-one and sometimes in small groups. He gives kids a chance to express emotions they may not feel comfortable sharing with an adult.

Lopez met Loki and his handler, Kari Cleland, at the library as kids read to him.

Cleland said she got Loki when he only 7 ½ weeks as a service dog for her father who has Parkinson's disease.

But she is happy Loki is able to help kids as well.

"We have done this because we feel like dogs can help enrich kids' lives," said Cleland. "And just seeing how these guys have interacted and carried it through to have a better interaction with their counselors is great and we are proud to be just the beginning of it."

Tortolita is the first in the district to get a therapy dog but a spokeswoman with the district said she won't be surprised if other schools decide to bring one in too.

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