It won’t be hard to take a good long look at the newest addition to the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School staff. On May 16, Violet, the oh-so-adorable goldendoodle, became the therapy dog for students in the Multiply Disabled (MD) program. The MD program features a self-contained classroom for students who require special education and related services.
Board of Education members Lisa Waters and Annie McGinty purchased Violet with contributions from private donors. Private donations will continue to be used for training and additional items as needed.
Principal Dr. Tracy Handerhan, Vice Principal Stephen Sarles, and Supervisor of Special Services Carol Krsyzckowski were inspired by a presentation about the Highlands School therapy dog, Hudson. Soon after, a visit by local therapy dog Savannah and her handler Pamela Marcellus was arranged by teacher Jennifer Dellett and instructional aide Victoria Vaughan.
“Savannah’s visit to RFH went extremely well,” said Ms. Dellett. “Students that had never read aloud were suddenly volunteering to read poetry and short stories.”
And so, on May 13, Violet arrived “home” to RFH and to the residence of Ms. Vaughan, who will serve as staff member/handler. Next up is Violet’s training – consisting of puppy school, good citizen school, and therapy dog school.
Violet will be a most welcome daily guest in the MD classroom, where students and teachers will work with the handler to help care for her and take ownership. Working with Violet will promote independence and life skills, while fostering a comfortable and therapeutic environment where students – for example, at-risk readers – can enhance their learning skills.
Ms. Krsyzckowski notes that a therapy dog will greatly benefit the MD students and the rest of the RFH population, as well. “Extensive research has found that a therapy dog increases mental stimulation, acceptance, and empathy, along with countless other benefits,” she said. “Therapy dogs have been shown to enhance personal well-being, achievement, and overall happiness. A therapy dog can positively impact every person it comes into contact with.”