Therapy dogs praised

To the Valley News:

I am writing to praise an outstanding program at Westport Central School. That is, the Therapy Dog Program, run by enrichment teacher Susan Satloff.

Each year, for the past three years, Ms. Satloff has trained students in safe dog handling and care for six months, then brings the students and dogs to various sites in the North Country, such as the Horace Nye nursing home, for therapeutic interactions with the residents.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn responsibility, patience, and the rewards of community service. Everyone is a winner – the students learn how to properly care for and train a dog, and the recipients of the therapy encounters are overjoyed with the visits – not only from being able to pet and love a well-behaved dog, but also by seeing these children in an endeavor that they can share with the community in a unique way.

The Westport school mission statement: “To inspire our students to be caring and contributing members of society,” is embodied in Ms. Satloff’s class like no other. It is the only program of its kind in any school in all of New York and New England!

This hands-on learning of responsibility and compassion is something these children will take into their adult lives, and one which will not only establish how they care for pets as adults, but also their own children.

In past years the students and therapy dogs have visited nursing homes and hospitals in Plattsburgh, Elizabethtown, Keene Valley and Ticonderoga. They also have visited three other schools teaching dog safety programs to 6-9 year-olds.

What an inspired and visionary choice it was on the part of the Westport school board to enable Ms. Satloff to deliver this class. I can’t think of a more valuable way to invest school budget money, as does Senator Elizabeth Little. She has sent Ms. Satloff a personal letter commending the program and a certificate of merit to each student.

Andrea J Sorey, Elizabethtown

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