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Should more pets be used in schools as part of social-emotional therapy?

One very furry high school graduate was honored this week with a yearbook photo of his own. 

Prince “the therapy dog,” bred by Lutheran Church Charities is a 9-year-old golden retriever who works in the guidance office at Portage High School in Illinois. He's retiring and as a parting gift, he had a professional photo taken and published alongside the class of 2013. 

"We've never done anything like this but it was a nice way to say goodbye to Prince," Melissa Deavers-Lowie, Portage High School's yearbook adviser, told Yahoo! Shine. "Parents and students thought it was so cute and funny. And on Sunday, he'll lead the graduating class of 2013 onto the football field for the ceremony." Naturally, he'll be dressed for the part, wearing a custom-made red cap and gown. 

“Prince comes to school and works with me in therapy groups,” Tim Kunstek, Portage High School’s guidance counselor and Prince’s handler, told Yahoo! Shine. "It’s pretty phenomenal how much the kids love him.” 

Prince, who lives with Kunstek and his family in Portage, Illinois, has worked a 9-5 gig for the past 4.5 years. Every day, he rides to school with Kunstek and spends his morning greeting students as they arrive at school. He also sits in on counseling sessions with Kunstek and his students, and patrols the hallways, making sure kids are going to class. During lunch, he hangs out in the cafeteria. “Kids would sit on the floor and feed him Tater Tots and other treats, but he started gaining weight, so we’ve scaled back on that,” said Kunstek. And Prince travels for work: In the wake of the tragic shootings in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he was on hand to make the sure the children had a smoother transition back to school. “The kids at Sandy Hook loved him and all the other therapy dogs so much that Lutheran Church Charities is now trying to raise money for therapy dogs at Sandy Hook,” said Kunstek. 

At the end of a long day, Prince heads home with Kunstek for dinner. Upon his retirement, he’ll remain with Kunstek and work part-time, possibly with kids. And he won't be forgotten: His Facebook page boasts more than 1,500 likes and he keeps his friends updated with photos of his life at school and at home. 

But Portage High School won’t be without a therapy dog for long. Isaiah, a 1-year-old golden retriever, is in training to be Prince’s replacement. “There’s something really calming about golden retrievers; they have a big effect on people,” said Kunstek. 


I think it's awesome, and that they should do this for every school.  There's something about pets that just breaks the tension.


Asked by hellokittykat at 5:44 AM on Jun. 7, 2013 in Pets

Level 23 (16,483 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (8)
  • The libraries here have the reading program with dogs. My son loved it when he was younger. The schools are not doing this but its a wonderful idea.

    Answer by virginiamama71 at 12:11 PM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • One of our local schools has a reading dog. The owner (a PE teacher at that school) has been approached about using the dog in court when children have to testify. I think it is a great idea. 


    Answer by JeremysMom at 7:45 AM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • I think it's a great idea. Some kids can't have pets at home & can at least get some interaction at school. They use therapy dogs at nursing homes & hospitals, so why not schools? They do perform a great service. The idea catching on I'm sure it's probably a matter of finances for some districts.


    Answer by mrsmom110 at 7:19 AM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • Wonderful Idea!! I agree more schools should make this a option.

    Answer by liss05 at 10:12 AM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • I think this is great. This year my kids' school used a reading dog. My son loved it.

    Answer by JulieJacobKyle at 10:55 AM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • I love the idea.

    Answer by 3libras at 9:45 AM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • What an awesome story! Dogs bring out the best in a lot of people, and some teens who have trouble relating to their elders and peers really open up to animals.

    I suppose there would be the usual objections, though. Allergies, health concerns, those who are afraid of dogs.

    Answer by Ballad at 1:23 PM on Jun. 7, 2013

  • I agree with you there is nothing like a pet to teach love and compassion and loyalty......this is an idea that would work wonders on a lot of bullies and social tension.....

    Answer by older at 7:44 PM on Jun. 7, 2013