June 12, 2024

Welcome to West, Rocky!

We are incredibly excited to introduce you Rocky! Rocky is a Golden Retriever and a therapy dog at West Elementary. He will start learning at West during Summer Learning, and be certified in August.

Below is a list of benefits, identified through numerous research studies, that come with having a therapy dog at school:

  • Cognitive- companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving and game playing.
  • Social- a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing, and focused interaction with others.
  • Emotional- school dogs improve self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety.
  • Physical- interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses.
  • Reading- reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect the dog’s presence has on children as well as the fact that a dog will listen to children read without being judgmental or critical.

Potential challenges to consider are listed below with our measures to reduce or eliminate any potential adverse experience for students.

“My child is allergic to dogs.”

It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a school dog. However, Rocky is subjected to the most thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. He will also only be allowed in situations with pupils who voluntarily wish to work with him. He will work with students in one on one or small group capacities, in specified areas, so the possible spread of dander is limited throughout the building.

“My child is scared of dogs”.

Some children may have had upsetting experiences and thus have a fear of dogs (or other animals). Rocky will only be in contact with children that want to work with him. He has completed training that helps him to remain calm and be gentle around children. This training is ongoing and will continue to take place for as long as he is a school based therapy dog.

If, for any reason, you would like to request that your student does not work with Rocky, please email Superintendent Nick Cassidy or Summer School Principal Jennifer Heinritz and let us know so that we can make the appropriate accommodations. 

We hope you will join us in welcoming Rocky to the Holland Public Schools family, and embrace all that he has to offer the school.