Alaska : Therapy Dog

 In Ocean Academy

By: Ms. Sandra DeGroat/Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner OMHS  & Kimberly Wada/ Instructional Paraprofessional 

Alaska, a 5 year old mixed breed (German Sheppard/Husky), is a therapy dog who is trained in Animal-Assisted Therapy and certified by Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. Ms. Sandra is Alaska’s handler and is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in the outpatient department at Ocean Mental Health Services. Alaska has been volunteering and providing therapy to Ms. Sandra’s mental health patients two days weekly and the patient’s enjoy their appointments with added benefit of pet therapy when Alaska is there. Ms. Sandra reports that Alaska was initially scheduled only 1 day a week but her so many people want to be scheduled to see Alaska that another day had to be added! Plus Alaska has been visiting the residents of Homestead every first Tuesday of the month!

While on her lunch time walks around the building with Ms. Sandra, Alaska was able to meet the students and staff of Ocean Academy and was invited to spend some time volunteering with the students.  Monday November 13th was her first day and boy was she a hit! She was able to visit all the students and staff in the classrooms and hallways and was thrilled to receive the adoration of the students (and staff)!! She was also the recipient of belly rubs which are her favorite!!

Alaska is going to be spending one Monday a month at Ocean Academy to become more familiarized with the school and all who are in it. Starting within the next year or so, Alaska will be visiting Ocean Academy more often. Ms. Sandra is going to be completing her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and is going to be working on her DNP Project with Alaska at Ocean Academy.

The students in the Elementary Room really enjoyed Alaska’s visit. One student said that he was afraid of dogs. When Alaska came in, he said that he planned to stay at his desk because she was too big. However, after a couple of minutes of watching the other students interacting positively with Alaska, he walked over to pet Alaska, saying that he “wanted to see what it would be like.” This student spent several minutes petting Alaska and rubbing her belly. Another student, Piper, especially enjoyed Alaska’s visit. Piper assisted Sandra in walking Alaska from classroom to classroom to visit with students and staff members.  When the students were asked how they felt about having a therapy dog visit the school, Joey said that Alaska made him feel “happy,” and Josh said, “She’s cute.”  Aaron said that Alaska’s visit made him feel “good,” and he added, “It felt exciting!” Damien commented that Alaska “should be here more often!” All of the staff and students in the elementary room agreed that Alaska and Sandra should visit OA more often. We can’t wait to see them again!

Showing 16 comments
  • Rachel Strickland

    She is so cute! It was nice to see her again!

  • nick lasacco

    I have a dog but Alaska is awesome.

  • god

    The dog was alright.

  • Dylan Dagner

    Alaska is a good doggo who deserves all the belly rubs she can get.

  • Michael Sambucini, Jr

    I have met Ms. Sandra and Alaska all of two times, but I must say it was a pleasure both times. Alaska is a very calm dog who is well trained, and makes me feel warm inside. Ms. Sandra is a very nice young lady, and is always a pleasure to talk to. I do hope to see them both more often and have nice conversations.

  • james dobias

    Sounds like every one had a good time. Dogs are very helpful to calm you down I think its a good idea.

  • Elijah Spikes

    The dog was nice. Alaska had soft fur.

  • Zachary Syanovitz

    I was not able to be there for this, although it looks as if I should have. I personally like dogs, so I think I would have been inclined to learn a little bit.

  • Zachary C

    Alaska was really relaxed around the large groups of people she met here. Everyone seemed to really enjoy her here as well.

  • Carlos Gomez

    I think that the dog brings happiness.Also, I got to touch the dog.

  • Tierney

    This was a very nice experience I love dogs a lot.I have a dog of my own he is a service dog in training.

  • Roberto Soriano

    It was awesome to pet the dog because I love animals. Ms.Sandra was a very genuine person to talk to while petting Alaska.

  • Sarah

    I met and played with Alaska and I must say she is such a sweet girl. She is perfect to come to OA, as I think all of us have some sort of interest in animals. Her handler, Ms. Sandra, does amazing work in many lives. I truly believe Alaska will bring many positive experiences to the children. Dogs not only help and calm people when they might be sad or anxious, but they also help teach responsibility and how to care for something. I can’t wait to see you again Ms. Sandra and Alaska! 🙂

  • bethanie

    Alaska is such a sweetie! I love dogs and have my own at home. It’s great to have a therapy dog come to school. It really takes stress off.

  • ciara

    What a great way to help out with dogs.

  • Ms. Caffee

    It was such a pleasure to meet Ms. Sandra and Alaska! We are looking forward to seeing them again!

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