Governor Justice and team hold first “Pup Rally” to introduce new school therapy dog

WELCH, WV (WOAY) – In an effort to bring comfort to kids in need, a therapy dog has made its way over to Welch Elementary School.

As part of Governor Jim Justice’s new Friends With Paws program, a “Pup Rally” was held at the McDowell County school Friday to introduce the new arrival.

The governor was joined in the announcement by First Lady Cathy Justice, West Virginia Communities In Schools Nonprofit, and the West Virginia Department of Education, all major contributors to the new initiative.

The therapy dog is a male black Labrador Retriever named Coal.

“With all of the challenges are kids have and everything, today we’re doing something really special because everybody knows a little doggy, a doggy that you can pet and talk to, and never have a bad day,” Governor Justice says.

The therapy dogs will be placed in schools within CIS counties that have the greatest need for them.

These are counties that are disproportionally affected by poverty, substance misuse, and other at-risk situations.

The dogs will help in bringing comfort, support, and a healthy outlet to the students.

“We had been to a couple of schools that had dogs and the dogs had made such a tremendous impression on the whole student body,” First Lady Cathy Justice says. “The children’s absences went down, grades were better, there weren’t any problems with discipline, and it was just a whole great environment.”

The team has been working on the project for over a year. Their efforts were shown Friday when they introduced Coal to the first group of students who will benefit from him.

More therapy dogs are expected to come to other CIS schools in West Virginia throughout the year, including schools in Upshur, Lewis, and Pocahontas counties.

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