Meet the Newest Member of State High’s Counseling Team

Lilly sits in the counseling office ready to support students.
Lilly sits in the counseling office ready to support students.
George Mann

There is a new addition to the counseling team- and she has four legs. 

This spring, Lilly, a 13-year-old mixed-breed dog was officially trained as a therapy dog and began to work at State High. Lilly is owned by counseling coordinator Beth Burnham and although she only started in April, she has already become a valued member of the school community. 

Students have quickly adjusted to Lilly’s presence, and with many students heading to the counseling office to meet Lilly. Junior Katelyn Watschke has visited Lilly multiple times and plans on coming back. “It was kind of interesting. Like, you never really see animals at school, so it kind of felt like a fun experience,” Watschke said. “I definitely felt like more cheerful walking out of the office.”

Junior Brooke Shellenberger also enjoyed meeting Lilly. “[Lilly] definitely brightened my day and it was fun to take some time for myself to go and meet her,” Shellenberger said. 

Multiple factors contributed the Burnham’s decision to certify Lilly as a therapy dog. Last year, the counseling office paid others to bring in their therapy dogs for specific times. Burnham began to research the certification process and thought training her own dog would be a way to put that money towards other initiatives. Additionally, after the death of Burnham’s other dog, who Lilly was close with, she needed a purpose besides laying around all day. 

Lilly is certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. In order to become an official therapy dog, she had to complete a series of tests. The tests included visiting different types of facilities, testing her demeanor around dogs and people, and ensuring that she wasn’t food-aggressive. After she successfully did these tasks, she received a certificate as well as a heart tag to wear on her collar. 

Although it has been a big transition, Lilly has adjusted well. “I really think she enjoys it because in the morning she like sits next to me, like, ‘you’re taking me today’. And then I try to go out in between the change of classes. And so now when she hears the bell, she walks towards the door. She’s like, ‘Oh, well this is what I do’,” Burnham said. 

Burnham explained why she believes therapy dogs can be beneficial. “When a lot of people see an animal that just seems to brighten their mood, you know, because animals love unconditionally. They just provide a lot of comfort to a lot of people,” Burnham said. “Like if you’re walking into the counseling office and if you’re, you know, stressing out about something, have high anxiety, that really calms you down.”

Having a therapy dog available at all times of the day has not only had a positive impact on students, but staff members as well. “Not only the counselors, but we’ve had other staff members walk in and be like, ‘Oh, I just need to see a little lady to pet’, you know, type of thing to lift their spirits throughout the day,” Burnham said. 

Lilly plans to return to the school next year to continue to be a calming resource for students.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Lions' Digest
$195
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of State College Area High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Lions' Digest
$195
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All Lions' Digest Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *