Pepper the therapy dog joins Shaler Area High School’s counseling office in a new initiative aimed to provide support to students.

Shaler Area School District is excited to welcome a new addition to the high school’s school counseling office.

Pepper, a certified therapy dog, joined her owner and high school social worker LeeAnn Guido in December 2019 in a new initiative to provide support to students.

Ms. Guido proposed the therapy dog initiative at the high school after hearing about the positive effects an animal can have on students with traumatic backgrounds. She felt a therapy dog within the school could have similar success with a larger number of students.

Ms. Guido and Pepper, a 4-year-old labradoodle, are a certified therapy dog and handler team through Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The dog spends her time in Ms. Guido’s office, which is located in the school counseling office, and is available to students throughout the day as well as classroom visits.

Pepper provides opportunities to reduce students’ stress, improve physical and emotional well-being and self-esteem, lower blood pressure, and decrease anxiety, thus increasing the likelihood of a student’s academic success.

In her short time in her new role at Shaler Area, Pepper has provided comfort a grieving student with her calm presence and gave a student who struggles with truancy an incentive to come to school.

Currently, Pepper comes to the school 2-3 times per week, depending on Ms. Guido’s schedule.