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The Warrior Messenger

The student news site of Woodbridge Middle School

The Warrior Messenger

The student news site of Woodbridge Middle School

The Warrior Messenger

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Mrs.Van Handel educates WMS journalism students

Olivia P, Paityn C, Samantha M spend some quality time with Cooper, Mrs. Van Handel’s new therapy dog after their interview.

According to Dog Day Afternoon, a therapy dog informational website, therapy dogs were first introduced during the time of World War II. When Corporal William Wynne found a female Yorkshire Terrier, he took her in and named her Smoky. Soon, Smoky began to be friendlier with Wynne. Smoky was by William’s side most of the time during the war, comforting him through the troubles he’d gone through. This is just an example of how therapy animals have evolved over time, discovering many new things.

A common misconception people have as opposed to therapy animals is that they are similar to ESA (Emotional Support Animal) but the thing is they can’t be claimed as the same type of animal. Mostly because they have different meanings. An ESA pet is to help ones well being and to show comfort and compassion. But, a therapy animal is for affection and unconditional love and support through difficult times. 

Many people do not understand the concept of therapy dogs. These types of animals go to places with their owners and volunteer, offering comfort. There is also a wide range of different animals that fit under the category of therapy pets. They visit nursing homes, prisons, schools, hospitals, and more. They work with senior citizens and children. These therapy animals and the trainers themselves work as a team, helping other people feel better.

Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies show that animals can reduce loneliness, and increase your feelings of social support. 

On October 7th, 2023, Mrs. Van Handel, a therapy dog trainer, visited Mr. Malmstrom’s journalism classes; she has been coming to Woodbridge Middle School since 2019, right before our major pandemic (COVID-19) started. 

Mrs.Van Handel coming in to show us how they bond and work as a team. It also can prove that no matter how strong your bond is with an animal or human it can always be improved. For example, she takes her animals and participates in dog sports with them and she does agility. It can only help build up her relationship with her dogs.

With her, she brought Molly and Cooper to WMS. This is Cooper’s first time ever coming to the middle school. Molly and Cooper are her therapy dog pets, commonly referred to as “staff”.  They have visited many places, Woodbridge Middle School being one of those lucky places. Once they arrived, the students of journalism began to interview Mrs. Van Handel, asking many interesting and educational questions.

Mrs.Van Handel had said, “I always wanted to keep teaching. But I didn’t want to become a substitute teacher and deal with all that. I had enough of being the actual teacher. I did want to give back to the community though.”

After the interview session, all of Mr. Malmstrom’s students sat down in a circle. They played with Cooper and Molly, having a fun time whilst also learning many new things about these types of animals. Journalism students in the 8th grade, took pictures of the students and dogs once they started playing around. 

Mrs. Van Handel coming to our school is a special privilege us journalism students have and I think it helps a lot of us to get this interview practice in. And, it is nice to get that relaxation by petting the dogs. It helps us all not feel as stressed.

Mr.Malmstrom, the journalism teacher, said, “I feel honored because I think one of the cooler things I have done as an educator is bringing in a therapy dog trainer.”

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