Students Find Comfort in Furry Friends

St. Joseph’s homes and classrooms are seeing positive results from the HAPI Homes program.

Homes are always happier when one of the members of the family walks on four legs, right? We sure think so!

With the help from supporters like you, St. Joseph’s is proud to have the Houseparents and Pets In (HAPI) Homes program on campus. The program launched in 2017 with three dogs. We’re happy to announce the program just got a bit HAPI-er, and has expanded to 10 dogs in select homes and classrooms!

Why are the dogs here?

We’re glad you asked.

Research has shown dogs support psychological growth, as well as increased social skills and self-esteem in children and adolescents. They provide emotional support, positively impact reading progress, may decrease anxiety and increase overall academic achievement.

“We’ve seen students who have a hard time speaking to adults or other children open up to a dog,” said Maija, the HAPI Homes program coordinator. “Over time, that communication the student has with the dog spills over to others in the home and the classroom. Before you know it, that quiet kid you worried would never open up, is a leader in his or her home and classroom … and it started with a dog.”

HAPI Homes also teaches students the responsibility that goes into caring for an animal.

Can any dog come to St. Joseph’s?

Not just any four-legged friend gets to come to school. The dogs at St. Joseph’s are owned by houseparents or other staff. They have met strict guidelines to test their temperament and have documentation to prove they’re up-to-date on their shots. A local K-9 police officer must deem the dog fit to be around children. If they are declared a good citizen, they can come to campus to visit homes and classrooms on a leash. Dogs are never left alone with students.

Are the dogs really making a difference?

Again, we’re glad you asked. Let us show you an example of a situation that happened right here on campus:

After venturing downstairs in his pajamas, a St. Joseph’s student explained to his houseparent, Trond, that he couldn’t sleep … every time he closed his eyes, he could see scary red eyes on the side of his closet.

After taking the student back up to his room, Trond returned shortly after with Sarge, the resident dog and sniffer-of-all-things-scary, to look around. After Sarge was only able to find a half-eaten hotdog in the garbage, the young boy was able to relax and slept soundly for the rest of the night.

It can be difficult for little ones to be away from home – especially when they first come to school. Having a comforting presence that comes from a dog can be truly beneficial.

“The transformations are incredible,” said Maija. “We’re so happy to have more dogs on campus now. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids interact with them.”

Puppy Love

The dogs love being at St. Joseph’s with the students – and the feeling from students appears to be mutual:

“We have a dog – his name is Sarge and everyone in our home loves him … especially when he cleans the floor.”

“[Our house dog] is funny. He makes me feel safe. He does tricks that make me happy and he is nice and cool.”

Meet Our Fluff Balls

Is it time to get up? My name is Doug and I’m a Border Collie/Labrador mix. I’m a laidback pup who was put on Earth to have my ears scratched. It’s my favorite thing!

Sadie Mae
Hey, there! I’m Sadie Mae and I am a Staffordshire Terrier who loves belly rubs and giving kisses. I’m so excited to meet new people that my whole body wags!

Hello, my name is Lani and I am a Shih Tzu. I am friendly, I love people and tummy rubs! My hobbies include chasing plastic bottles, going on walks and visiting the elderly in nursing homes.

Howdy! My name is Layla and I am a Pappillon mix. I love belly rubs, walks, playing fetch and hanging out with my boys at St. Joseph’s.

Hi, everyone! I’m Finn and I am a Morkie who loves his brother Miles. I love to play fetch, go on long walks and snuggling. I am so happy to be at St. Joseph’s!

Good day! I am Miles, Finn’s older brother. I am a Labradoodle and am 13 years old, or 91 in people years! I love eating tomatoes out of the garden, fetching, napping and taking long walks on the beach.

Hey, y’all! Andy here! I’m a Yorkie Terrier who likes to cuddle, play fetch and may be the next contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” because I’ve got moves!

Hello there! I’m Leevy, a Basset/Beagle/Corgi mix who works for belly rubs. I love to be petted and I have the softest fur!

Hi, my name is Lola! I am a German Shephard who loves treats, riding in the truck and spending time with kids. I’m small for a German Shephard, and mom says I remind her of a Teddy Bear.

At ease, soldier! My name is Sarge and I love going for walks, getting treats and hanging with the kids at St. Joseph’s!

Wopila Tankamany thanks – for supporting programs like this at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

12 thoughts on “Students Find Comfort in Furry Friends”

  1. Pets do bring out the love from younger ones. That love then multiples and creates a wonderful environment both short and long term.
    My best to everyone.

    John Zinger

  2. What a wonderful program! Saint Joseph’s does great things for our True American children. You all will be blessed!

  3. Wonderful program. Do the children read to the dogs? My dog Shelby and I read with children at the library and everyone loves it!

  4. Dogs do make wonderful companions. They are very sensitive to people’s moods; they can tell when some- thing’s wrong and provide comfort when it’s needed – especially with children. In the contest, I picked Finn – the Morkie – I’m happy he won.

  5. I’m a strong supporter of animal rescue. My dog, Jackson, is a Border Terrier/ Lhasa apso rescue and he enriches my life so much!
    I have just made a donation to St Joseph’s School. Can I request that some of the funds find their way into the HAPI Homes program? Jackson (and I) would be so pleased!

Leave a Reply to Andrea Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *