Dogs provide a calming presence at trauma-informed school

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Heidi Beatty, a counselor at Lakeside for 11 years, explains that the proper title for Boomerang, the morning greeter, and the black Lab named Cobalt that she handles, is “facility dog.”

The dogs are trained specifically for use in facilities, rather than working with one person.

Lakeside educators say the dogs provide a general calming presence and can sometimes spot a student who is under stress and go over to them.

“They provide safety and trust,” says Beatty, who generally brings Cobalt to group counseling sessions.

With individual students, she says, “they’re a great conversation-starter.”

In one case, she recalls, a girl just starting at Lakeside was so withdrawn that she had to spend her first few hours alone in an office until Cobalt was able to coax her out.

“When he has that vest on,” Beatty says, “he knows he’s working.”

Says former Lakeside student Zavier Bouayad-Ramey, now back at Bensalem High School: “I can’t get mad or frustrated when I’m around the dogs.”

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