Wood County Technical Center welcomes therapy dog

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The Wood County Technical Center recently officially welcomed its newest employee: Gatsby the therapy dog.

Gatsby is a seven-year-old beagle-poodle mix and is the fifth therapy dog serving in Wood County Schools. Gatsby was approved recently by the Wood County Board of Education and is owned by Amy Stewart, an embedded English teacher at the center.

Stewart said Gatsby has been training since she first got him as a puppy and spent years volunteering at area nursing homes. Gatsby recently became certified as a therapy dog and visits the center a few times a week, though officials hope to establish a more regular schedule for him soon.

“Teens carry a tremendous amount of stress with them every day,” Stewart said, whether it be school, home issues or various responsibilities. “He just helps the students feel more comfortable and reduces some of that stress.”

Stewart said Gatsby’s calm and gentle temperament, combined with a keen sense of people’s emotional states, makes him the perfect therapy dog.

“He’s very empathetic,” she said. “Whether it’s grief or illness, he picks up on it quickly.”

“He’s just very calm, and there is something calming about him,” said center Director Pier Bocchini. “And it’s not just the students who benefit. The adults enjoy having him here as well.”

Stewart said she is working with the center’s early learning program teacher to develop lesson plans for that class featuring Gatsby, and the dog goes most everywhere she does except for the center’s tool shops which may have hazards on the floor.

Though right now Gatsby only comes to the center a few times a week, she hopes students will be able to see him more often in the near future.”

“He would come to school every day if he could,” Stewart said. “He loves it here.”

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