WELCH, WV (WVNS)– McDowell County Schools received a special visit from the Governor, the First Lady, and a furry friend on Friday, April 8, 2022. The first “Friends with Paws” event began at Welch Elementary School.

A black Labrador Retriever named Coal is the first therapy dog. The Justice’s came up with the idea for Friends with Paws after visiting several schools with therapy dogs already in their classrooms. They saw the positive impact it made on the students.

“This has been a really long project that’s come to fruition today,” said First Lady Cathy Justice. “We’ve been working on this for a year and a half. We’ve added dogs from different sources all over the country.”

Coal is a little over a year old. Cathy Justice said this will open many doors for the children in the classroom.


A total of 10 dogs will be placed in classrooms by next fall.