Twice a month, Nikki, a seven-year-old standard poodle from Bridgewater, NJ, comes to Matheny along with her owner, Dorothy Dameo. Nikki is a pet therapy dog, trained to visit venues such as hospitals, nursing homes and senior care facilities. She has been visiting Matheny for five years, and Dameo says the visits are a very rewarding experience because “you can see the children responding positively to her.”
Pet therapy is beneficial to both the physical and mental health of Matheny’s students and patients. The visiting dogs lift their spirits, provide comfort and encourage socialization. Pet therapy is also therapeutic because, says Dameo, “the children use some motor skills they wouldn’t normally use.”
Nikki was certified as a pet therapy dog by St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ. She is one of about half a dozen pet therapy dogs who visit Matheny’s students and patients regularly.