Therapy animals in Perry Township

Marissa Gibson, FACTS staff reporter

Dogs are a man’s best friend. They are loyal, joyful, and all-around lively animals. Hank Arnold, the therapy dog at PMHS, is everyone’s best friend. 

Therapy dogs are trained to show affection, comfort, and to support people. These people in the school’s case are the students and staff.

High school students are at more risk of self-harm and struggles than middle schoolers and elementary students are. The staff here has to overcome obstacles as well. Spending seven hours and up in the same building can take a toll on everyone. Hank just provides an outlet to get the feelings out.

Meagan Bates, the caretaker of Hank and the instructional coach, has had Hank since he was five weeks old. He is now three years old, and this will be his first official full year at PMHS after being here for half of the 2021-2022 school year.

In order to have a formal “meeting” with Hank, students can request Bates to come into their class of choice. They can also email Bates personally to have a minute alone with Hank. Hank can be seen in the hallways, all students or staff have to do is ask to give Hank a pet, and then they will be more than welcome to.

“At any point of a day, if I walk into a room and can tell the stress levels are up, I bring Hank in to help ease the tension,” Bates said.

According to Bates, Hank being here at PMHS gives the older students the opportunity to still be kids at heart. In Perry Townships elementary schools, the therapy dogs can go in and sit with the kids during story time, or perhaps during indoor recess. High school students still need that chance to be able to get things out and let all anxiety go in a healthy way. This coping mechanism just happens to involve Hank.

“It’s not like high school students don’t need any help, even if they are almost adults,” Bates said. “If you look across all high schools, they don’t necessarily have stay-in therapy dogs, they’ll just have one come in for an event, but with Hank, he’s here for everyone all the time.”

High school can be a scary place, considering school shootings occur more frequently than they should. Knowing that there is at least one way of safety and the feeling of belonging in Hank gives the students and staff the courage to face a big fear every day.

“Hank can’t talk, so he will never judge anyone,” Bates said. “He’s here to help the students and staff of Perry Meridian, and he’s doing his job.”