School welcomes therapy dog to campus

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 6:38 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2022 at 8:18 PM CDT
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SALEM, Ark. (KAIT) - Monday is World Mental Health Day, and a North Arkansas school is honoring it accordingly.

New therapy dog Renley started her first day at Salem School District on Monday.

Renley has proper certifications to help students deal with anxiety and depression, among other things.

Handler and Salem High School Counselor Kim Ragsdale has been with Salem School District since August, but this isn’t Renley or Ragsdale’s first time inside a classroom.

Ragsdale enters her 25th year in education, while Renley enters her third.

While this is the first chance for students in Salem to experience a therapy dog, Ragsdale explained the benefits were evident at her former school.

“Just seeing her in the hallway just made them happy,” said Ragsdale. “I had students who told me they had a bad morning that morning, and then they saw her wagging her tail, and getting to pet her, just made all the difference for them to have a better day.”

Ragsdale said through experience, she knows what a therapy dog can do for students.

In Renley’s first year, a student at the former district lost a parent suddenly, and Renley was able to help.

“She could have her basically as a comfort,” said Ragsdale. “And that was a really good thing.”

Ragsdale said she understood dogs might not be everyone’s favorite animal, and if a student doesn’t want her around to talk, that is very understandable.

“If I have someone that says, ‘I would rather her not be in my space,’ that’s fine. I totally respect that,” said Ragsdale. “We are not forcing her to be around everyone.”

Renley doesn’t only help the students.

“Even faculty tell me that seeing her puts a smile on her face, and if they get a chance to come by and pet her, that’s just even better.”

Ragsdale stressed that the school keeps an eye out for students just looking to miss class, but at their former district, that wasn’t a problem.

“Students were told that she’s here as a tool. She’s here as a help. Not to be used as an excuse.”

Ragsdale expressed her thanks to the school for allowing the use of a therapy dog on campus.