SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV — First Lady Cathy Justice today visited Bridgeview Elementary School for an assembly to celebrate the arrival of the state’s next therapy dog through the Friends With Paws Communities In Schools (CIS) program.
The dog introduced at today’s event is named Louie. He is a Yellow Labrador.
“We were thrilled to see the turnout to welcome Louie to Bridgeview Elementary,” First Lady Justice said. “He has truly been greeted with open arms by the South Charleston community, and I can’t wait to see the impact he has on the students here.”
The Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in several schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need of a boost. Since April 2022, ten Friends With Paws therapy dogs have been placed in CIS schools across the state.
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 assembly, students and staff had the chance to greet Louie.
“Having a therapy dog at Bridgeview will help support the social emotional needs of not only our exceptional students but all the students,” Bridgeview Elementary School Principal Stephenie Haynes said. “Students have been counting down the days until his arrival. Our hope is that Louie provides comfort for those hard days that students may experience and motivation to come to school when staying home seems easier.”
The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, West Virginia CIS Nonprofit, and the West Virginia Department of Education. Therapy dogs are placed in schools within CIS counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse, or other at-risk situations, and are in the greatest need of a support animal. The dogs 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, a male Black Labrador, at Welch Elementary, McDowell County
Foster, a male Golden Labradoodle, at Buckhannon Academy Elementary, Upshur County
Jasper, a female Yellow Labrador, at Lewis County High School, Lewis County
River, a male Yellow Labrador, at Pineville Elementary School, Wyoming County
Shadow, a male Black Labrador, at Moorefield Elementary School, Hardy County
Jet, a male Yellow Labrador, at Spring Mills High School, Berkeley County
Kylo, a male Black Labrador, at Lenore PK-8 School, Mingo County
Winnie, a female Apricot and White Labradoodle, at Wayne Elementary School, Wayne County
Kasha, a female Yellow Labrador, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Pocahontas County
Marshal, a male Cream Labradoodle, at Hinton Area Elementary School, Summers County
In April, Oakvale Elementary School in Mercer County will receive a male Apricot and White Labradoodle.
More information about Friends With Paws can be found in Communities In Schools: Friends With Paws, a documentary produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Click
HERE to view the documentary.
A 2019 study published by the National Institute of Health found that a dog’s presence in the classroom promotes positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body.
In addition, research shows that the simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response. Therapy animals lower anxiety and help people relax, provide comfort, reduce loneliness, and increase mental stimulation. They are also shown to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, reduce the amount of medications some people need, help control breathing in those with anxiety, and diminish overall physical pain, among other profound benefits.