OLD LYME, CT (WFSB) - Preparing college applications is a stressful process for high school seniors, but with the help of therapy dogs, called ‘therapets,’ the task seems less daunting.
Lyme-Old Lyme High School students like Brady Sheffield are taking advantage of the free therapy sessions courtesy of the Tim Buckley Project, or Project Paws, which allows students to pet and relax with a well-trained dog.
“Homework, assignments that are due, tests, quizzes. Everything it all adds up,” described Sheffield who was petting a labradoodle named Maisey.
Lisa Buckey founded Project Paws after losing her 22-year-old son Tim, in 2017, to an overdose.
“It builds connection. It’s a nonjudgmental safe zone,” said Buckey. “Everyone needs a sense of belonging and connection.”
Pennie Garvin owns a 5-year-old Irish wolfhound, named Ezra who volunteers her time to Project Paws.
“One woman came over and he was wrapped all around her and I jokingly said, ‘Oh, you must need a hug,’” described Garvin.
“She busted out crying, and she said, ‘I do!’ Apparently, all this bad news happened to her.”
Lyme-Old Lyme High School Superintendent Ian Neviaser said the dogs help students ease the stress of the college application process.
“We’ll have the dogs come in around exams, we have the dogs come in when school starts. Anytime our students are feeling an unusual amount of stress,” said Nevasier.
There are dogs for the students to meet, but also a duck.
“Oh, there’s a duck, here, let me go, pet it,” said student Bella Arias. “It kind of takes your mind off everything for a minute.”
The duck, named Elway, is owned by Lindsay Schafer, and is as well loved by the students as the dogs.
“It spreads a message that it’s OK to be different,” said Schafer. “It’s OK to look different. to act different, and still be accepted by everybody.”