Williams/Ledger rescue dog offers therapeutic benefits

Special to Leader-Press

Her vest moves back and forth across her back as she struts down the hallway. Her nails click on the floor and the pitter-patter of her paws is a sound recognized by many students and staff. 
Who knew a rescue therapy dog adopted from the local shelter could live a superhero dog life, helping those in need? 
Dog therapy is effective in the learning environment and can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. According to Healthline Pet Therapy, therapy dogs can also improve social skills and self-esteem. 
As an intervention method to support the emotional development of their scholars, staff at Williams/Ledger Elementary School adopted Ayla, a 10-year-old Chihuahua mix therapy dog. 
Ayla has already started making her rounds in the building, stopping to visit students in their classrooms and offering consolation when students are faced with hardships or just the need a friend.
This superhero therapy dog has already made an impact on student success. Ayla is teaching students like Adyson Martin about listening skills, kindness, observations, soft hands, responsibility, and friendship among many other social skills. 
“I feel happy that I get to pet her. It makes me feel trusted,” Martin said.
When a scholar is having a difficult time, Ayla can be utilized to provide a nonjudgmental listening ear.  She quietly listens to students while they talk about what is bothering them. Scholars like Dominic Talton say Ayla makes them feel calm when things are hard at school or at home.
“I love petting Ayla,” Talton said. “I feel relaxed when I pet her.”
Ayla is also a part of the Elementary Student 2 Student Welcoming Wagon and welcomes new students who are transitioning to the school and may be nervous about making new friends and learning the new campus. 
Ayla is accessible to all students and staff and can be easily located when she is needed. Some staff call Ayla their own therapy dog and many students like Francesca Perez wish they had more time with her. 
“Ayla makes my heart shine and happy,” Perez said. “I wish she was my dog.”

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