It was just another ordinary day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida but nobody expected that their Valentine’s Day would turn into a day of bloody mass murder. An ex-student of the school carried out a deadly shooting that killed 17 students and injured 17 more. After this tragic event, the rest of the student population refused to sit back and mourn their losses. Instead, they challenged the government and fought hard to change the official rule in Florida to raise the age of legal firearm possession from 18 to 21 — they emerged triumphant! Aside from that, they also received an honorable mention during the Pulitzer Award ceremony where they submitted an entry detailing the shooting and what happened afterward.
The school found its way to the headlines once more because of the school’s therapy dogs! The harrowing experience of the school shooting affected each student of this school and may have even traumatized them for life. In fact, two students had taken their life after the event, and similar mass shootings continue to happen around the country, bringing back horrible memories for victims. In a move to improve overall mental health and reduce stress and trauma, the school decided to bring in fourteen therapy dogs.
The dogs provided a lot of relief from all that stress of the incident. Students could pet, talk, or be accompanied by these therapy dogs within the school grounds. This was a wise move on the school’s part because it proved to be a huge stress-buster. Some of the dogs even joined the students during prom night. Yearbook adviser Sarah Lerner had this brilliant idea of including the dogs in the yearbook and it was an instant hit. Lerner says, ” There’s nothing a dog can’t fix. I’ll be teaching and in comes a dog and these big 18-year-old adults all the sudden become mushy 5-year-old kids and it’s been such a comfort for us.” The dogs were made to sit on a chair to have their pictures taken. The yearbook pictures went viral after they were shared on social media. The dogs, on their part, loved the interaction with the kids so much that some of them even sat on students’ laps — something they would never do with adults.
The past year has been terrible for all the students in the school. So, when the students started planning for the school yearbook, it had to be special, a celebration of the present and the future instead of mourning for the past. The first dog, River Haneski, arrived in July via the school Library Media specialist, Diana Haneski. Since then, more have been added to the pack namely Gail Policella, Sophie Levy, Annie Sultenfuss, Grace Goodwill, Schooner Davis, Chief McAlpin, and many more. Their cute pictures on Twitter is all the rage right now. However, some people have mixed reactions as they don’t think therapy dogs are needed in school. But what’s done is done, and in the process, these dogs have brought hope and smiles to the faces of the young kids in the school. It was only right for them to be included in the yearbook!