CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) – There are seven more helpful service dogs that will be running into schools across Southern West Virginia during the Fall of 2022.

Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice today announced the next seven schools receiving certified therapy dogs as a part of the First Lady’s Friends With Paws initiative.

“Bringing these seven additional dogs into our Friends With Paws therapy dog program will greatly enhance our Communities In Schools initiative. I am getting a lot of positive feedback from schools’ staff about how our dogs are benefiting students by alleviating anxiety and improving attendance. We’re looking forward to future pup rallies, and I’d like to invite members of the local communities receiving these dogs to come and help celebrate!”

First Lady Cathy Justice

The seven new schools receiving therapy dogs in the fall are:

  • Pineville Elementary School, Wyoming County, will receive a male Yellow Labrador named River.
  • Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Pocahontas County, will receive a female Yellow Labrador named Kasha.
  • Greenbrier East High School, Greenbrier County, will receive a male Cream/White Labradoodle named Marshal.
  • Moorefield Elementary School, Hardy County, will receive a male Black Labrador named Shadow.
  • Spring Mills High School, Berkeley County, will receive a male Yellow Labrador named Jet.
  • Wayne Elementary School, Wayne County, will receive a female Apricot Labradoodle named Emily.
  • Lenore Elementary School, Mingo County, will receive a male Black Labrador named Kylo.

First announced in March, the Friends With Paws Program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, West Virginia Communities In Schools (CIS) Nonprofit, and the West Virginia Department of Education. The Friends With Paws program places certified therapy dogs in CIS schools across the state, providing companionship and comfort for students in need.

Therapy dogs are put in schools in CIS counties where students are heavily affected by poverty, substance misuse, or other at-risk situations, and are in the greatest need of a support animal. The dogs serve as a healthy outlet for students to address trauma and other social-emotional issues.

Dogs placed earlier this year include:

  • Coal, a male Black Labrador, at Welch Elementary, McDowell County
  • Foster, a male Golden Labradoodle, at Buckhannon Academy Elementary, Upshur County
  • Jasper, a female Yellow Labrador, at Lewis County High School, Lewis County

Representatives from the three current Friends With Paws schools and two of the current therapy dogs were also at the ceremony today. The representatives shared stories about the impact the certified therapy dogs have had on the students at their schools.

“Having Coal at our school has brought a sense of peace and calm. His presence is comforting and welcoming to both students, staff, and families. He has helped bridge the gap that Covid created two years ago.”

Shannon Pace, CIS Site Coordinator at Welch Elementary School and Primary Handler of Coal

The addition of the seven dogs to Friends With Paws will achieve the initial goal of the program; placing ten certified therapy dogs in schools across West Virginia by the end of this year.

In 2023, Friends With Paws also plans to place ten additional dogs in CIS schools in West Virginia.