National Dog Therapy Appreciation Day: ‘Tucker, you just don’t know how much I needed this today.’

Published 10:34 pm Monday, April 11, 2022

Carter County Schools took time on Monday to celebrate and recognize their therapy dogs and handlers on National Dog Therapy Appreciation Day.
Currently, the county has two dogs and handlers – Tucker, a two-year-old golden doodle owned and handled by Lacey Pasquale, and Knox, a three-year-old golden doodle owned and handled by Chasity Powell.
Pasquale is an administrative assistant at the Central Office and in the Carter Cares After School program while Powell is the school nurse at Cloudland Elementary.
Both dogs are certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and spend their days comforting students and staff in times of stress, being read to by the students, and receiving an endless supply of hugs.
Pasquale said this is the first school year that she and Tucker have worked together.
“He gained his certification this past summer in July of 2021,” said Pasquale. “There is no certain time frame of training to become a therapy dog. It completely depends upon the dog and their personality and demeanor. However, the ATD does require that a dog be a minimum of one year of age. Tucker turned one in March 2021 and was ready to begin the testing and observation process shortly thereafter. He  did not attend any sort of class or training by a professional; I trained him.”
Pasquale takes Tucker to after-school programs at Hunter and Unaka Elementary and Unaka High School where they are building relationships with the students by visiting on a weekly basis.
She said that the younger students really have taken to Tucker.
“Younger students cuddle up and read to him either one-on-one or in a small group,” Pasquale said. “Sometimes we change it up and I read to the class while he gets belly rubs. We also tutor students of all ages and help them in areas where they may be struggling or falling behind.  Sometimes, we just talk. It is amazing how many kids will open up and start talking to you when Tucker is present.
“Staff members look forward to seeing Tucker come through their door just as much as the students do.  Almost every day when we walk into a school, staff members will say, ‘Tucker, you just don’t know how much I needed this today.”
Pasquale said that Tucker even makes his daily rounds at the Central Office when he goes to work with her greeting everyone and lifting their spirits. “It is easy to forget as adults to realize that we need a moment of self-care every now and then,” Pasquale said.
Powell and Knox just recently received their certification from the ATD according to Pasquale who said she would love to see a therapy dog and handler in all 15 Carter County Schools.
“It is amazing to see how kids come together when Tucker is present,” said Pasquale. “One student who stands out in my mind was shy and socially withdrawn, and after a few visits from Tucker and I, was able to connect with peers and gain the confidence to start building friendships.”

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