MARSHFIELD, Mass. - The cutest new addition to the Marshfield High School is an 11-month-old puppy that will be trained as an emotional support dog by next year.
The tiny German Shepard, named Nala, is all about playing and relieving stress.
Emotional support dogs in schools and in the workplace have been proven effective against stress and anxiety.
The impact animals have on students, especially during periods of high stress, such as finals week, was enough to get the counseling staff a grant to fund Nala's arrival.
"Having an emotional therapy dog in here is just one step that we can take to hopefully alleviate some of the stress in kids lives when they come into the school," said District Superintendent Jeff Granatino.
During her adjustment period, Nala will be living with the school's counselor Rebecca O'Dowd. She'll be working with a trainer to bring Nala into contact with students and staff for all sorts of reasons.
"The goal is that she aids the entire emotional support community here in the building," O'Dowd said. "Animals have a way of making people feel unguarded and vulnerable and more open and calm."
The school believes that, given how receptive the student body has been of Nala's arrival, that having an emotional support dog will put them ahead of the academic curve.
The school's community said they haven't figured out just yet the role that Nala will be playing in the school, but because its such a new program for schools across the board, there's really no set guidelines for emotional support animals.
"I do think you'll see more schools trying this. I think that you'll see schools looking at doing it now, saying 'what's the best way to support kids so that they can learn and make effective progress,'" said Bob Kuether, the Spelling Principal at Marshfield High School.
The principal says other schools in the area have already reached out to Marshfield to find out more about Nala's role.
"She's great. It's one of the neat additions we've made this year," Granatino added.
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