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Comfort Dog Makes Big Impact During Visits With Walden Students In Yorktown

Addie interacts with the students of Jesse Steiner's art class at The Walden School.
Addie interacts with the students of Jesse Steiner's art class at The Walden School. Photo Credit: submitted

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – It sounds a bit like the beginning of a joke: What do you get when a golden retriever, a Girl Scout, a mother, a teacher and a group of students walk into a Tech Center?

There’s no real punch line though, only good news for the students and the animal.

The Comfort Dog program of the Lutheran Church Charities began visiting The Walden School this year with a golden retriever named Addie and her handler, Jan Hebert, according to a statement, which added that the relationship between the organization and the school developed because of the efforts of Laura Herzegovitch, a teacher’s aide whose daughter, Kelly Herzegovitch, is working on her Girl Scout Silver Award project.

Hebert spent multiple class periods each week speaking to the students of Jesse Steiner’s art class while the children interacted with Addie, often petting her or laying their heads on her soft coat.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for our students to improve their ability to have empathy for others as well as themselves,” Steiner said of the therapy dog. “It’s something that a lot of students struggle with – seeing things beyond themselves.”

Steiner continued on to describe another way in which interaction with Addie helped the children.

“So many of our students feel isolated, they feel that no one else is going through what they are going through,” he said. “When students talk openly around Addie, they understand that they are not alone.”

One project the students completed after spending time with Addie was composing messages on wooden plaques that were then decorated. According to the statement, the plaques were provided by students in the school Tech Center’s auto body and carpentry program.

“The students get more out of making the plaque than the person who’s receiving them,” Steiner said. “They get that it’s about them doing something for someone else and they see that they are part of a community. They have value.”

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