Pocantico Hills School Welcomes Therapeutic Support Dog, Duke

Students in Michelle Fitzpatrick’s first-grade class give treats of Cheerios to Duke, the school’s new therapeutic support dog.

Pocantico Hills School’s newest staff member has four legs. Duke, a seven-year-old American Staffordshire terrier mix, started his new job as the district’s therapeutic support dog in February.

Therapeutic Support Center teacher Mario Suarez and Duke, his pet, started making the rounds of classrooms on the first day. Children learned some of the rules around having a dog in school, such as do not pet him when he is wearing his red “do not pet” bandanna, pet him on

the back or chest, and respect his personal space. They found out he loves to eat Cheerios and have his belly rubbed, and that he has a younger and smaller “brother” named Tank.

The Pocantico Hills School Foundation provided funding for a therapeutic support dog at school. The grant paid for the training Duke needed for his American Kennel Club certifications and expenses associated with his being at the school.

Students at Pocantico had a chance to meet and spend time with Duke on his first day

Research has found that therapy dogs in schools can lower students’ anxiety, stress and negative feelings. The dogs also help boost their energy, wellness and academic achievement.

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