Were you the type of student that always sat at the back of the class? Did you raise your hand confidently or did you give that imperceptible, never-above-the-shoulder wave? Did you experience the entire first verse of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ (palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy) anytime you had to present in front of the class? Then you and I both would have benefitted greatly from a Chico in our classroom.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 adolescents will experience an anxiety disorder*. While this rise in anxiety can be equated to a variety of different factors for each child, a reliable and holistic solution is to have a therapy dog present.
Petting a dog has been proven to trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin as well as the bonding hormone, oxytocin. All hormones reduce the feeling of isolation and improve social confidence. Time spent with a companion animal can also help to lower heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in less anxiety for the human in question.
As a teacher, Kristen Montesano was aware of how Therapy Dogs were becoming more prominent in schools to help students relieve anxiety and improve social skills. “Chico’s temperament has always been calm, sweet, joyful, and eager-to-please,” Kristen explains. “Even as a puppy he was well behaved and happy to sit in laps and be petted all day.” She realized that his personality would make him great for this type of work. It doesn’t hurt that Chico is the size of a plush toy and she knew the children would never be scared of him.
Chico is certified through Pet Partners, one of the largest non-profit organizations that registers not just Therapy Dogs but Therapy Animals (e.g. horses, cats, rabbits, birds, etc.). He passed a rigorous test demonstrating his skills and understanding of commands. He also passed a temperament test which guaranteed that he enjoyed the work and was suitable for it.
Chico says “I get attention, I get treats when I train and practice my skills, and everybody loves me! The hardest part is when someone at the place where I’m volunteering passes on visiting with me- I just want to be pet by everyone!”
The hard work paid off. Chico lights up around the children and vice versa. For Kristen, it’s heart-warming to see Chico soak up all the love and attention and for the children to enjoy spending time with him.
Chico and Kristen live in Dallas and hope to continue their good work for many years to come.
We want to say a massive thanks to Kristen and Chico for everything they do to bring a smile to the face of every child they meet. We wish we had a Chico in our classrooms growing up.
For every purchase using the code ‘CHICO10’ for the next month, 5% of the profit from each order will be donated to Pet Partners, an organization dedicated to promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted interventions.