Shelby County Board of DD Welcomes Therapy Dog, Woody

The Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities welcomes Woody the Therapy Dog to their growing staff. Woody is a Great Pyrenees mix that belongs to the Shelby Hills school nurse, Deb Graham. Nurse Deb will also be Woody’s handler while he is working as the facility therapy dog.

For the past year, Nurse Deb and Woody put in a lot of training to prepare for Woody’s new job. They were fortunate to have help from a nonprofit organization called Anything is Pawsable. This organization makes trained service dogs and therapy dogs more accessible to those who would benefit. The Anything is Pawsable program runs at no cost to those receiving a dog and is funded through donations. In the past, they trained dogs to help families all over Ohio with various conditions, like PTSD, anxiety, muscular dystrophy, seizures, and more. They also trained pups, like Woody, to be facility dogs at places like Mercer County Juvenile Court, Coldwater Exempted Village Schools, and Mercer County Educational Services.

What Will Woody Be Doing at SCBDD?

As Woody’s handler, Nurse Deb created a curriculum for what the SCBDD facility therapy dog is expected to learn and actively do while working.

  • Meet and greet students at beginning of the day. The calm presence of a therapy dog can start the day on a positive note. Also, therapy dogs can get to know the children and staff through repeated scents.
  • Accompany children at reading centers during play stations. Therapy dogs love to listen to kids reading. It decreases the child’s anxiety, encourages creativity, and can comfort the dog.
  • Practice de-escalation. Therapy dogs have been trained to help de-escalate students with heightened emotions. There will be boundaries and limits when entering an area with the therapy dog. The health and safety of all people and the therapy dog will be considered before allowing contact.
  • Practice Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and assist with Speech Therapy. Therapy dogs can fetch and return a ball as students work on gross motor or speech skills.  Student will be able to walk the therapy dog on a leash.
  • Provide individual counseling with students and staff. Therapy dogs check in and out with students and staff, providing comfort when needed.
  • Act as a transition companion for children who are having a difficult time with changing activities or spaces.

As you can see, Woody already has an extensive list of duties in his job description. Plus, as he continues to learn more, his curriculum will continue to change and possibly expand.

Already Proving Success

So far, Woody has had limited visits to the county board preschool and office buildings, but he is already proving to be a wonderful asset to everyone. He attended Preschool Literacy Week with Nurse Deb as a guest reader. He also attended a recent all-staff quarterly meeting to announce his new role.

Smiles happened all around while Woody received hugs and pets. He also put his training to work, assisting a little with therapy and transitions.

Take a look at these photos of Woody at his new job and see his success for yourself!