PARKLAND, Fla. – Therapy dogs from the Humane Society of Broward County are at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday as students return to class for the first time since 17 people were fatally shot at the Parkland school.
According to a news release, the Humane Society's animal-assisted therapy teams are at the high school Wednesday, and have been also visiting other local schools and emergency dispatch centers to provide comfort and relief to those impacted by the shooting.
My first period class with our borrowed therapy dog, Woody. pic.twitter.com/NcRkd2E9CA— Sarah Lerner, CJE (@mrs_lerner) February 28, 2018
Humane Society officials said the therapy dogs were also present at one of the victim’s funerals.
"The attention and affection of an animal is often a source of relief during difficult times like these. Please know that the Humane Society of Broward County is here to help in the best way we can -- through the comfort of our animals," said Marni Bellavia, manager of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at the Humane Society.
Since Feb. 15, the animal-assisted therapy teams have visited the following locations:
Country Hills Elementary School Parkland Amphitheater Vigil
Park Trails Elementary School Broward Health Coral Springs
Heron Heights Elementary School BSO 911 Dispatch Centers
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
The Humane Society shared a note sent to the organization from an MSD parent whose daughter visited the school on Tuesday:
"Hello. I am the parent of a junior at Douglas and we went back on the campus yesterday for the first time since 2/14. We saw your therapy dogs all over, and I just wanted to personally thank you for being present. I hope you have some idea of how comforting and helpful it was to these kids to see. My daughter and I met Junior, a big bulldog with his tongue hanging out, and she talked about him for an hour afterwards, which is a nice break for her from talking about funerals, deceased friends and even going back to school. It's such an amazing thing you do.
"Thank you again and again, Allison."
Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa spoke to Broward County Public School Board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood, who said that the therapy dogs and counselors will continue coming to the school as needed.
"One mom said, 'You know, everybody is here today, but how long will this take place?' And I said, 'As long as we need it to,'" Osgood said. "We have hundreds of grief counselors. We've been very involved with our students.
"Me and my colleagues, as board members, we've been interacting with students, so we're kind of going by the pulse of the students. Like today, there is nothing academic taking place. It's all about love, support, dialogue, counseling, encouragement, support dogs, support people -- whatever the staff and the students need."
Any school, organization or group that wishes to request a therapy team visit is asked to contact the Humane Society by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.