Gwen Rummell Reporting –

At Monday’s Board of Education Meeting, Tuscarawas Valley Local School District announced two new therapy dogs.

The district was able to participate with Canine Assistants out of Atlanta, Georgia thanks to Senator Al Landis, ADAMHS Board Executive Director Natalie Bollon, and a donation from the Smuckers Company.

Superintendent Dr. Derek Varansky said the idea of having therapy dogs has floated around for some time now.

“Our Board of Education has actually had that as a goal of theirs for the last few years. We changed our board policy in May of 2023 to be able to have service dogs in the building and to get ready should the opportunity arise someday that we would be able to have dogs on site.”

Dr. Varansky noted what it means to the school district to have the extra layer of support.

“On November 15th, when there were other agencies and other school districts that came in and brought their therapy dogs with them, we saw pretty quickly what it meant to kids – how the dogs help with anxiety, helped calm kids, helped provide comfort, and we just knew that was something that we wanted to do.”

Handler Lisa Owen and sub-handler Beth Widder will be with Hank in the elementary. Heidi Varansky and Jason Phillips will join Yikity in the middle-high school.

Both dogs are certified therapy dogs and the handlers and sub-handlers received full training. The dogs will use the remainder of the year to get used to the setting.

Hank and Yikity will be at the schools full-time during school hours and many district events.

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