Barking Up The Right Tree

Man’s best friend helps students de-stress before finals.


Photo by Shalla Bowers

Smiling and laughing, students pet a therapy dog in the library.

Sleepless nights, GPA calculators, plenty of dry shampoo, and oh yeah, what are jeans again? Tis’ the season Chiefs, finals are upon us.
The school librarians decided to relieve this pressure through an unconventional method: puppies!
Pet Therapy of the Ozarks is a non-profit organization whose mission statement explains that they are dedicated to bringing “smiles and joy” to their community through pet therapy teams. Hospitals, nursing homes, and schools are a few of the facilities they visit.
Melody Netzer, one of our school’s librarians, explains that elementary schools gave them the idea to incorporate pet therapy at Kickapoo.
“They [Pet Therapy of the Ozarks] love it for kids that are struggling to read in elementary schools, because the dog’s not going to make a face if you stumble on a word, it’s just going to sit there and listen to you. So, we took that idea and we thought ‘Why not let our big kids have a few smiles before their stressful finals?’”
To become a therapy pet for the organization, they must undergo a special evaluation. Before applying, they must have an American Kennel Club “Canine Good Citizen” certificate and then must go through a “Community Good Citizen” testing program that the organization has developed.
Their animals are therapy dogs, which are different from emotional support or service animals. Therapy dogs’ primary job is to provide emotional comfort to people. They are not covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and are not given privileges such as being allowed in public establishments or in living spaces with a “No Pets” policy.
The pandemic hit the brakes on the furry friends’ visits in 2020, but the librarians were able to revive the tradition last spring.
The dogs can get overwhelmed by too many people, so it’s sign-up only with about 15-20 spots per time slot. They fill up fast, so make sure you see Mrs. Netzer or Mrs. McDonald in the library about getting a spot!
“We figured out [that] since there’re so few spots, the best thing to do is to do it [pet therapy] at the end of finals for first semester and then again at second semester,” Netzer said.
If the organization can fit it in, Netzer explains that they try to do two separate dates second semester, one for seniors and one for underclassmen.
Pet therapy takes place during lunch in the library classroom, usually in 10-15 minute increments. This year, they decided to do whole lunch period time slots, but the 25-minute puppy sessions will be short-lived according to Netzer because of how fast the time slots fill up.
If you didn’t sign up this semester, don’t fret. Keep your eyes peeled for flyers in the commons and library and snag a spot in May. You deserve a break from the hustle and bustle, go and pet a puppy.