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Helping to make MOMS a happy place

posted: Tue, Mar 28th, 2017

Chris Abbott spends time with Ollie, who wears a personalized scarf given to him for Christmas by a student

He's the most beloved member of the MOMS family, always so chipper, always so happy to see you – especially if you have food.

Ollie, principal Susan Miranda's therapy dog, is a ray of canine sunshine who makes every day he's "at work" at MOMS a little brighter. Students see him in the hallways or in the main office and their faces come to life, the thoughts of homework and tests instantly receding. Ollie taps into something elemental and his presence engenders a certain calm and happiness – for kids and adults alike.

"He brings a sense of peace and friendliness," Mrs. Miranda said. "And that's the tone of our school."

Ollie grew up at MOMS, beginning his visits when he was just nine weeks old. He's now 1-and-a-half. The American cocker spaniel, a grandson of a Westminster Dog Show champion, comes in about three days a week.

"He's there to always be your friend," said eighth-grader Drew Glauberg. "And he never asks for anything in return, other than maybe belly rubs. He makes the school feel like home." 

Ollie's role in the school, though, isn't just as school climate booster and unofficial mascot. The pre-teen years can be stressful as kids cope with the physiological, social, and emotional changes of growing up, as well as the demands of more strenuous coursework. Ollie connects to students individually.

"He seems to sense kids who need love and distraction," said Mrs. Miranda. "He knows when someone needs help and he'll sit with them or play with them. It's nice for kids who don't have an animal to experience that love and loyalty that dogs provide."

Research has consistently shown that children benefit in the presence of animals. A 2010 study reported in the Early Childhood Education Journal (“Exploring Animal-Assisted Programs with Children in School and Therapeutic Contexts”) found that therapy dogs in a school setting can provide a social and emotion support system that is non-judgmental, raises students’ self-esteem, and makes it easier for children to express themselves.

Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

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