Education Has Gone to the Dogs!

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March 21, 2023

This is the seventh in a series of guest blogs by the 2022-23 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Stacy Trosin is a science teacher at Pinckney Community High School in Pinckney Community Schools.

I first met Rosie in September of 2022. She stepped through the threshold of the classroom, and all eyes were on her. I still remember the expression on Rosie’s little face. She was excited, but that excitement had some undertones of uncertainty, as well. Within those first few seconds, however, Rosie was right at home. She walked around the classroom, greeting everybody she met. The students were all smiles and greeted Rosie with pats on the head and endless belly rubs.

Rosie is a dog. She is a volunteer therapy dog that visits Pinckney Community High School once a week, and she is the star of the show!
When our principal asked for volunteers to invite Rosie into the classroom as a therapy dog, I jumped at the opportunity. I am a “dog person” and was thrilled at the idea of having a therapy dog in my classroom. I have had dogs in my life as long as I can remember and know the joys first-hand of animal ownership. The dogs in my life are my friends and confidants. They never judge or roll their eyes when I need a shoulder to cry on. Dogs exude unconditional love. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share this love with my students.
My students are thrilled to welcome Rosie into the class. Their demeanor immediately changes when Rosie enters the room. The students are patient and kind, and reach out to touch Rosie when she passes by. During the hour, Rosie’s job is to sit on her “place.” Rosie has been through extensive training to know her job.
She is loving and kind and does not jump or lick (as much as I know she would love to slobber everyone with big, wet doggie kisses). When I bring Rosie into the classroom, we do a quick lap around the room so Rosie can greet every student. You can tell when a student is having a difficult day because they embrace Rosie especially close. I know Rosie leans just a little bit harder into those kinds of hugs. After our meet and greet, Rosie is then asked to “place” on her mat and spends the hour resting, waiting for students to approach her as time warrants.
One student asked me, “What is Rosie’s job if she just lies down all hour?” I responded with, “Did you smile when Rosie walked in?” The answer was yes. Students have told me that Rosie makes them smile and makes them feel better when they are struggling.
Today, we have a lot of young people who are struggling. Depression and anxiety are way too common in our society. Having Rosie nearby helps, even if it is just for an hour. Dogs don’t care if you are having a bad day. They don’t judge; they just love. The mere presence of a dog can invoke a sense of calm and comfort. According to an article by Scientific American, petting a dog releases those feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. We want our students to feel good in school. Students who are happy learn better and are more engaged with their peers.
Not only does Rosie help alleviate stress with people in her proximity, she also helps create a positive school environment. Everybody at Pinckney Community High School knows Rosie. When I am walking Rosie to her next class, I feel like I am the entourage for a celebrity. Kids stop and ask, “Can I pet Rosie?” Those who don’t stop walk by and smile or say “Hi” to Rosie. Even the students who rarely don a smiling face in the hallway light up at the sight of Rosie.
While therapy dogs like Rosie can’t solve all our challenges, they sure do help. Therapy dogs not only spread unconditional love, but they also accept it, as well. Therapy dogs bring out the best in people.
Students feel safe and secure when therapy dogs are around; they feel a sense of connectedness to the classroom and the school community. It is that sense of belonging that ultimately helps deepen teaching and learning, a goal all educators have for their classrooms.
I would like to thank Marsha and Craig Lesley for sharing their wonderful Rosie with the Pinckney Community High School.