Our speakers today were Luke Pavone, Lynn Thompson and Doug Berg from the Student Services department at Prospect High School. But the truly special guest was Junie, the therapy dog who calls Prospect High her home. 
 
Our speakers today were Luke Pavone, Lynn Thompson and Doug Berg from the Student Services department at Prospect High School. But the truly special guest was Junie, the therapy dog who calls Prospect High her home. 
 
Junie is the first service dog to work in the nation to work at a traditional high school.  Since she started in 2012, Buffalo Grove High School has added their own therapy dog and Hersey High School is in the process of obtaining one. 
 
Therapy dogs have been used in hospitals, assisted living centers and at schools for students with special needs for many years. Petting a dog (or other pet) helps lower blood pressure, stimulates the production of Oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone, and generally improves a person's mood.  Counselors at Prospect High School had been tracking increases in student rates of depression, anxiety, stress and other problems and six years ago began researching therapy dogs and how one might help at the school.  That research led to Lynn Thompson adopting Junie in 2012 and, together with social worker Doug Berg, using Junie to help all students in the school. 
 
Junie makes the rounds to different classrooms on occasion, but mostly stays in the connecting offices of Lynn and Doug.  There, students drop in to say hi to Junie, rub her belly and maybe give her a snack.  Lynn and Doug have found that students are much more willing to open up to them about their problems with Junie in the room.  Junie also serves as a motivation to go to school for some students.  Several who were chronically truant now attend more regularly - just so they can have some time with Junie.  Many students say that Junie makes school feel like home.  
 
Even kids with allergies love Junie.  They are willing to endure a small flare-up and know to wash up afterwards.  But having time with Junie is worth the inconvenience.  For students who are strongly allergic, or have a fear of dogs, Junie will stay in the other office while Doug or Lynn meet with the student.  That's why having two counselors trained to work with Junie is key. 
 
 
The staff at Prospect High find creative ways to help their students succeed academically, emotionally, socially, and more.  Junie is just the latest example we've learned about.  (And the furriest). 
 

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