Butterscotch, aka Budders, is a 2-year old Dudley Labrador certified with the American Kennel Club and serves as a therapy dog for student and staff support at various Desert Sands Unified School District sites.
Therapy dogs are utilized to improve the lives of people by providing affection, comfort, and support. According to the animal assisted therapy research at UCLA Health, therapy dogs provide mental health and physical health benefits, “The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response.” Petting an animal releases hormones that can play a part in elevating moods.
Budders accompanies her owner, Sue Ann Blach, Educationally Related Health Services Manager, to therapy appointments with students, to staff meetings, and to her office at Summit High School. Budders is utilized as an animal assisted therapy resource for students who experienced trauma; students are more willing to meet Mrs. Blach for therapy sessions as it can offer a non-threatening setting and improve the therapeutic rapport between the therapist and the student. Budders is available to visit a classroom per teacher request for animal-assisted activities, such as being a presence in the classroom or having a petting/play session to improve mood and engagement.
Budders shows up for work with a positive attitude and has the ability to read emotions and offers interactions with a smile, friendly eye contact, a lean, and/or a wagging tail. Students have been observed to seek her out to assist with moments of stress and will return to the classroom with a calmer, focused mood. Teachers have referred students for a petting session when a student is withdrawn or visibly upset to regulate their mood and assist them to re-engage in their academic tasks.
Students gather for social enjoyment when waiting for their ride home and engage in positive, pleasant interactions with each other and with staff. Research has demonstrated that students who receive social-emotional and mental health support experience benefits related to academic performance, school climate, classroom behavior, on-task learning, and a sense of connectedness and overall well-being.
Budders is a valuable resource for the DSUSD students and staff to support healthy relationships with others and to improve mood.
Budders is utilized the following ways:
- Social engagement with others: Increases social interaction between students.
- Emotional support: Increases positive mood.
- Behavioral Support: Delays impulsive behavior by regulating mood and calming stress.
- “Budders is always happy and welcoming.”
- “Budders gives all the hugs and kisses.”
- “Budders is always so happy and is amazing.”
- “Budders makes my day better.”
- “She calms me down so much when I’m having lots of anxiety or when I’m having a bad day. She also is like my second best dog friend.”
- Sue Ann Blach and Budders: DSUSD
- Budders gets a hug: DSUSD
- Butterscotch: DSUSD