June 3, 2022
News Release | Weston, WV
WESTON, WV – First Lady Justice was at the Lewis County High School's “Pup Rally” on Thursday to celebrate the arrival of the state’s newest therapy dog through the Friends With Paws program where Jasper, a Yellow Lab was introduced.
“You are all incredibly special. In fact, your school is the first high school that we’ve given a dog to,” First Lady Justice said during the assembly. “I hope you all love Jasper as much as she loves you. Let her help you. If you’re having a bad day – maybe something isn’t going right – come see Jasper, she’ll make you feel better.”
Initially announced in March, the Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in several schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need of support.
Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and support to people in various tense environments. They can help people feel at ease, improve their mood, relieve anxiety, and remove social barriers.
Therapy dogs are highly trained and certified to show their ability to work in stressful environments, ignore distractions and provide therapy to people with diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
Following today’s ceremony, the high school students and staff had the chance to greet Jasper.
The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, West Virginia Communities In Schools (CIS) Nonprofit and the West Virginia Department of Education. Therapy dogs will be placed in schools within CIS counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse or other at-risk situations who are in the greatest need of a support animal. The dogs will serve as a healthy and friendly outlet for these students to address trauma and other social-emotional issues.
Schools that previously received therapy dogs through the Friends With Paws program include:
Coal (Welch Elementary School)
Foster (Buckhannon Academy Elementary School)
More dogs will be placed in other CIS schools across West Virginia throughout the year. Green Bank Elementary-Middle School in Pocahontas County will receive a male Yellow Lab named Jet.
Friends With Paws also plans to place a therapy dog in Hardy County later this summer.
The initial goal of the program is to place a total of at least 10 dogs in West Virginia schools in 2022.
The therapy dogs will belong to each individual school and will become part of the community.
Officials with DT Midstream and Orion Strategies were also in attendance on Thursday and ceremonially presented a check for $25,000 to the First Lady in support of the Communities In Schools program in Lewis and Braxton counties.
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