WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty-Salem elementary principal Aaron Hollar held an exciting, surprise staff meeting on Tuesday, September 14.
Teachers, Para Pros and other elementary staff of West Liberty-Salem School were invited to the courtyard after school where Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy owners and their dogs gave a special presentation on the work they do and have planned for the elementary.
Karen Zeigler, who retired from WL-S in 2019, volunteers her time with her dog Millie and was a surprise guest speaker during the presentation. Zeigler spent 19 years of her teaching tenure at WL-S.
She shared that the idea of having a therapy dog really started after the school shooting. She realized how impacting and healing the dogs were to students in that crisis situation. When she retired, Millie was given to her and it all seemed to fall into place.
“I knew when I retired I wanted to give back to my community somehow,” Karen said. “Serving with Millie and being able to volunteer at West Liberty-Salem brings everything full circle for me.”
Karen and Millie were certified as a therapy dog team in June of 2021, and joined Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Organization and will be volunteering in many capacities. Zeigler shared how special it will be to be back in the school volunteering where she spent so many wonderful years.
Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy have been educating and certifying volunteers and their own dogs for animal assisted therapy nationally since 2006. They serve in schools, retirement communities, veteran services, crisis intervention and people in need primarily in the Miami Valley. The benefit and impact that pet assisted therapy has on both physical and mental healing is undeniable.
The core of Best Friends is servitude and their reach is immeasurable in the communities they serve. Each year they choose an organization or worthy cause to support. Karen and the selection committee, selected the West Liberty-Salem elementary educators to be one of this year’s recipients. They gave 39 teachers $50 cash to put towards their classroom and supplies, a mug and kind words of encouragement, and of course, a visit with their dogs.
West Liberty-Salem is excited to embark on this new adventure with Karen, Millie and other Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy dogs who will begin volunteering at WL-S later this fall. Programs might include reading with the therapy dogs, teaching animal safety with young students, companionship and service in crisis situations when needed.
Information from WL-S directors and Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Group