The Dogs of Catholic Schools: Part Two

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Meet Eve, the new four-legged addition to the Catholic Central staff!

Each morning at Catholic Central High School, students get a special welcome as they arrive. Catholic Central’s very own therapy dog, Eve, stands at the door, welcoming students and wagging her tail. Eve, a two and half year old black Labrador Retriever, joined the Catholic Central family in December 2021. “We see the joyful responses when students pass Eve in the hallways,” says Heidi Smitley, Director of Guidance and Eve’s primary handler/caregiver. While interacting with Eve, Heidi says she observes students who are upset or anxious begin to settle and calm down. “Eve’s positive impact is especially encouraging for students’ social and emotional well-being.”

Eve spends half of her day with Heidi in the guidance office, where she can roam freely and interact with students who visit and need some support. For the rest of the day, Eve is out and about, visiting various classrooms with Heidi or one of the other handlers. Whereas elementary school service dogs operate in a much more structured sphere, the primary support Eve gives to Catholic Central is just that of her presence. “When students arrive at school stressed about something, interacting with Eve and getting to pet her helps to boost their mood,” says Heidi. “If nothing else, she gives them a reason to smile when they arrive at school in the morning. And Eve can help bring the students in a class together, if they’re all interacting with her.”
In the few months Eve has been working at Catholic Central, she has become a dearly-loved figure at the school, and even has her own Instagram account, which highlights her adventures as a high school support dog. Whether she’s aiding students in the guidance office, greeting them at the door, or cheering on the football team from the stadium stands, Eve spreads happiness wherever she goes!

An important characteristic of Catholic schools is the care each school takes in responding to and meeting the specific needs of its students. Schools are doing this in various ways across the diocese, and a few schools have brought in some four-legged support. 

In a series of blog posts, we will showcase schools that have welcomed service dogs into their classrooms to calm students, help them to focus, and provide stress relief. While educators must determine whether a service dog is right for their particular classroom or on a case by case basis, studies have shown that students benefit from exposure to dogs.