Service dogs help students heal after school shooting

Updated: 01/19/2014 6:52 PM | Created: 01/18/2014 12:31 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A crisis outreach team is working with students and staff at Berrendo Middle School to make sure the place feels happy, normal and safe after Tuesday's tragic shooting.

Along with counselors and familiar faces, service dogs specifically trained to help ease trauma greeted the students returning to class.

"They are actually trained to be ready for a crisis situation and they were," said Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, who brought the service dogs to Berrendo.

The dogs, Emma and Moose, started their work immediately after the shooting by sitting in kids laps while police interviewed them.

"The children open up more, adults open up more, and they feel safer. It does allow the brain to heal more quickly," Cloutier said.

As students returned to class, the dogs were in the halls to help ease pain

"As they're being stroked, it reduces the cortisol level in the traumatized brain. It's incredibly healthy for the brain chemistry during trauma," Cloutier said.

Emma the golden retriever even went to Lubbock, Texas, to be with the shooting victims.

"They brought a lot of smiles to teary faces," Cloutier said.

Cloutier says the environment already feel worlds different than it did right after the shooting.

"The school feels good, it feels hagppy, it is a safe place for kids and families to be," she said.

The crisis outreach team says about 60 percent of students attended class on Thursday. On Friday, a little more joined. But not all students have gone back yet.

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