Therapy dog to pause stress at Gloversville schools

GLOVERSVILLE – Every dog has its day; for Tanner, it was Oct. 18.

People at Gloversville High?School and middle school that day were treated for the first time to the calming presence of Tanner, a certified therapy dog.

Tanner is a 3-year-old yellow labrador retriever mix that belongs to Latin teacher Charles Giglio.

“It was deemed a success by everybody,” Giglio said about Tanner’s first appearance at the school. “I think it is good for the program and good for the school because even the teachers told me they felt good when they saw him. Everyone was smiling and I really believe the right dog has a positive effect on anybody.”

Tanner and Giglio were certified as a team during the summer by Therapy Dogs International to provide therapy to people with depression, anxiety or stress in schools, libraries, hospitals, prisons and nursing homes across the state.

The service a therapy dog provides is the calming effect of being a pet and the unconditional attention they provide, Giglio said.

“[Tanner] just makes you feel good,” he said. “Scientific tests have shown a dog’s presence can reduce blood pressure and other stress levels.”

Giglio said to become a certified therapy dog Tanner had to go through a rigorous series of testing, which is primarily based on Tanner’s demeanor, temperament and reaction to loud noises or large groups of people.

“[Tanner] passed the test with flying colors,” Giglio said.

Tanner’s services can be requested by anyone seeking them, and Giglio said he does it voluntarily.

High School Principal Richard DeMallie said the goal with?Tanner’s first appearance was to introduce the dog to the students and staff and see how things went.

Giglio said the day was a success, as Tanner has a calming effect in the classrooms he was in, which presented a “warm and inviting atmosphere,” and didn’t effect Giglio’s daily schedule.

“Our initial plans are to utilize the therapy dog during state testing times when students will have a lot of anxiety, during Regents exam periods and maybe during our special education classes with students [who] have learning or emotional disabilities,” DeMallie said.

He said the dog wouldn’t be around during the testing itself but would be in the lobby for students to access before or after they enter the exam.

DeMallie said going forward the hope is to expand Tanner’s services to the elementary schools as well, but the issue is Giglio has a tight schedule during the school day because his primary job is instructing Latin at the middle and high school.

“Since I teach full-time, our appearances are going to be limited, but when I have time to myself, my plan is to go into a special [education] classroom and have kids that have difficulty reading or speaking in public read to Tanner so that they lose their self-consciousness and feel good about themselves,” Giglio said.

Giglio plans to bring Tanner in on alternating Fridays for several visits, to get the dog accustomed to the buildings and surroundings.

DeMallie said they have already spoken to Superintendent Michael Vanyo about expanding Tanner’s services and have plans in the future to bring the idea before the Board of Education.