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Parkland Brings Back Therapy Dogs To Help Community Get Ready For Start Of School

Jessica Bakeman
Therapy Dog Sophie rests her head on the hand of a recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate during last week's Therapy Dog Thursday event at the Parkland Recreation Center in Pine Trails Park.

Therapy dogs — and even a therapy pig named "Patches" — were popular at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the Feb. 14 shooting.

Parkland mayor Christine Hunschofsky said she was concerned students might feel isolated over the summer. So she invited the animals and their owners to attend "Therapy Dog Thursdays" at the Parkland recreation center.

"The dogs are very calming," she said during last week's event. "You probably notice when you walk in the room: they're so excited to see whoever's there. There's ... a joy from the dogs. And I think that's very comforting."

There are two more "Therapy Dogs Thursdays" — plus a bonus Tuesday event — before school starts in Broward on Aug. 15.

Visit the recreation center in Pine Trails Park today or next Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. Or you can go from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14 — which is the six-month anniversary of the shooting and the day before the first day of school.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.