LN welcomes new counseling dog

LN has a new furry friend roaming the halls. Nugget, the new therapy dog, is here to provide comfort to stressed out students and to provide paws-itive reinforcement


Allana Preston, Sports Editor

On that fateful day in January of 2016, the principal of Amy Beverland Elementary was killed by jumping in front of a bus to save two elementary kids. Even today Susan Jordan is still remembered as a hero.

The time after the accident five years ago was confusing for everyone. Little kids didn’t understand completely what had happened, other than the fact that it was something sad and terrible. Counselors from across Lawrence Township were there in the elementary classrooms as crisis support, for the kids who needed to talk to someone. Connie Sivertson, an LN counselor was there to provide support for those kids. While Sivertson was sitting in a second grade classroom a dog from the organization PAWS and Think came into the classroom and immediately gave some comfort to those children during that difficult time.

“They (the second grade students) were sitting in their classroom and we were working through this process and a PAWS and Think dog came in, and all of those students who had been so, so quiet, watched the dog walk in and the dog laid down in the middle of the classroom, and a couple of kids got up and asked, ‘Can I touch the dog?’ Absolutely! That’s why she is here. Not even about 30 seconds later did the talking begin and the processing of what had happened. Something about the fur, the companionship, and the vulnerability, that allowed them to relax and start talking. Seeing it first hand, it was amazing,” Sivertson said.

With this information and seeing how amazing this dog impacted these kids in a way that was positive and comfortable, Sivertson wanted to get more involved. She contacted Paws and Think and got it approved to bring puppies in during finals weeks. Finally being able to see how these dogs can impact not only second graders, but also high school students as well, Sivertson was looking for a way to get a permanent service dog. ICAN (Indiana Canine Assistant Network) is an organization that trains service dogs and counseling dogs.

“At Warren Central, the director of guidance there is a friend of mine and he said, ‘You guys need to look into ICAN. We just got an ICAN dog. They train service dogs and facility dogs. Nugget will be a facility dog,” Sivertson said.

Nugget the dog will be a new member of the LN Wildcats starting this month. After about six weeks of just getting a good idea of the surroundings that she is in, Nugget will be out and about around the school and the goal is that she will be able to interact with students whenever they need it. She is available to every student and administrator and teacher that is at LN. Sivertson will be the primary caregiver for Nugget and Nugget will live with her, but because of that, Nugget will come
to school with Sivertson everyday and be here with her every week.

“The goal is to have her available, out in the hallways during passing periods and as people are coming off the buses and that she is always going to be available down in the media center but she basically be with us. We’ll go into classrooms, we’ll have visits out and about to see students, and she’ll be available for a
student who needs to decompress,” Sivertson said.

Before Nugget could come into the school, LN had to be approved as a safe place for a dog and there also needed to be a primary care service for the dog. Dr. Jerry Risser, a veterinarian in Fishers, has offered his services for Nugget free of charge.

“My family has been part of Lawrence Township for nearly 15 years, and from the beginning, we committed ourselves to be a part of the community in any ways that we could help. When I have a chance to give back to a school and a district that has done so much for my kids and family, and that ‘giving back’ can use my veterinary practice, it is an opportunity worth jumping at,” Risser said.

Pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions. A 2016 study explored the role of pets in the social networks of people managing a long-term mental health problem and found that pets provide a sense of security and routine that provides emotional and social support.

Studies have also shown that pets are facilitators of getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks, according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

“Nugget represents a very tangible way of knowing that safety, and that acceptance, and that freedom to take off the shields. Dogs don’t really judge us, but they do love us, and they can bring happiness and stability to chaos,” Risser said.

The process of getting a facility dog isn’t as easy as it may seem. For one, additional funds will have to continued to be provided to make sure that Nugget will have food, toys, and healthcare availability. But in this case, Dr. Risser has that all covered. If students and families are looking for a way to donate to Nugget and her services they can email Sivertson, ([email protected]) and ask her what the best way would be to donate.

“We are going to need to continue to ask for help with Nugget from our community, and I just can’t wait to see her walking the halls and being out in the cafeteria during lunch. I want her to go in and out of classrooms and really be a part of our family,” Brett Crousore said.