DENVER (KDVR) — The return to school can be exciting, but also anxiety-inducing for children. So, a Denver Police therapy dog showed up on the first day of school hoping to help calm any first-week jitters.
“I think even just that unknown, the first days of school you’re wondering, ‘Is my outfit good? Are my friends gonna like me? Can I be myself? Will people approve of who I am?’ and letting them start walking to the school feeling a little bit less stressed, smiling, connecting, sharing that connection that they had with Shelby. There were a lot of kids who were asking questions together, so hopefully that evens a little bit of camaraderie,” Teresa Gillian said.
Denver Public Schools, DPD therapy dog Shelby, her handler Gillian, and other officers visited Joe Shoemaker School on Monday and Morey Middle School Tuesday.
Kids showing up to Morey Middle School were greeted by the cute pup, and after a few pets, they left smiling. A small interaction, Gillian said, makes a big difference.
“There is that transfer of energy, whether it’s excitement or nervousness or stress. I was asking a lot of kids ‘How they were doing? How are you feeling?’ And a lot of them said they were excited and nervous. Then petting the dog, I was explaining to them that it physiologically makes you feel better and helps you process stress, whether that’s anxiety or sadness, or just the fear of the unknown. So, they all left smiling with their police stickers. I think it has had a positive impact on their well-being,” Gillian said.
The goal is to also encourage positive police-student interactions. Shelby does a number of community events across the metro all year long.