‘Rewarding experience’

Nikki with Matheny student Aidan McNamara and teacher Karen Deland.

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.

Pet projects

Several students from Christina Carey’s class at the Matheny School visited the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in North Branch, NJ, recently to see first-hand how this non-profit organization helps alleviate the suffering and neglect of companion animals and provides services that support the human-animal bond.

The students were able to ask questions of the St. Hubert’s staff members and visit with several dogs and cats hoping to be adopted. To thank St. Hubert’s for its hospitality, the class held an animal food drive among Matheny staff members and students and dropped off the goodies at St. Hubert’s during the visit.

Above, from left, teacher Christina Carey, recreation therapist Rachel Pyke, 16-year-old student Katie Van Orden and St. Hubert’s staff member Janis Dare.

Below, 19-year-old student Mark O’Connell visits with Chriss, a pointer.