Dogs, donkeys, and horses are helping comfort students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students returned back to school for the first time this week since the fatal mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on February 14 in Parkland, Florida. In addition to rows of law enforcement and police officers, grief counselors, and supportive parents, an array of animals joined the welcome committee.
The Humane Society of Broward County's Animal Assisted Therapy had dogs lining the schoolyard, licking faces of high schoolers, and offering free hugs. However, Golden Retrievers weren't the only four-legged critters with lots of love to give.
A horse painted with "Eagle Pride" and another painted with "Strong" gave rides to students amidst donkeys offering some nuzzles and TLC. Donkeys stood nearby to help with anxiety.
"The attention and affection of an animal is often a source of relief during difficult times like these," said Marni Bellavia, Manager of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at the Humane Society.
Animals have been visiting local other south Florida and Parkland schools, hospitals, and even a funeral of one of the victims. One parent of a Stoneman Douglas student reached out to thank HSBC for bringing the furry friends to the school's campus. Her note read:
"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."
HSBC is ready to send comfort animals to any place that needs. Contact [email protected] if you know of an organization that could benefit from animal assisted therapy.
What other animals have you know to offer therapy and emotional support? Tell us in the comments below.
All photos via Humane Society of Broward County.
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