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New four-legged team member joining ReadyKids

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 2:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Service Dogs of Virginia is getting its latest class of canines ready, with one in particular set to help a Charlottesville-area nonprofit.

ReadyKids is about to get a new support system in the form of a four-legged friend. The nonprofit provides early learning, family support and counseling.

“There’s something kind of magical that happens,” Trauma Counselor Allie Roth said. “When the dog comes up and greets them and just kind of comforts them, I think, it just makes the therapy all the more comfortable and special.”

Roth says ReadyKids currently has one service dog, who is booked up. Chaya is about to graduate from SDV and join the nonprofit’s team.

“For kids who are feeling really anxious, we can have the dogs kind of lay across their legs and then they can be petting them and we can use them as tools to help with deep breathing too, they can see the dogs breathing in and out and that can help them kind of regulate themselves. So they serve a lot of different purposes,” Roth said.

Roth says she is working to form a connection with Chaya before introducing her to clients.

“It’s kind of like learning to dance with a partner. So the dogs know the dance, but they cannot lead,” SDV Executive Director Peggy Law said.

Law says both the person and the dog have to learn together.

“There’s a lot of just being mechanical skills for a while, and then it’s being comfortable, and then it’s practicing out in public in all kinds of situations,” Law said. “It really helps the kids: It is a stress reliever, it is a great icebreaker, and it also relaxes kids so it makes it easier for them to tell their stories.”

“Chaya is going to be adding a lot of extra support to lots of kids who have been waiting to have one of the facility dog,” Roth said.

Chaya is expected to graduate from Service Dogs of Virginia by the of the week.

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