Paws-itively popular - Lilly the labradoodle winning hearts in Oak Harbor schools

Yaneek Smith

        The Benton-Carroll-Salem School District — specifically R.C. Waters Elementary School and the Oak Harbor Intermediate School, which are combined into a large building — recently welcomed an Australian labradoodle named Lilly, who is serving as the building’s therapy dog.
        Lilly belongs to Angie Lipstraw, the principal of both schools, and her family. But during the day, Lilly is a Rocket.
        It was Lipstraw’s idea to bring the 5-year-old dog to the schools.
        “About five years ago, our former principal and I were interested in bringing a therapy dog to school,” said Lipstraw, who is an Eastwood alum. “We had two therapy dogs – hers was trained here. I saw the impact her dog had on the students. My dog was trained, and she came here in December.
        Lilly had to attend a 14-week training session at Talk Dog Toledo, which is located in Woodville.
        “We visited a nursing home and went to Lowe’s and Home Depot with Lilly,” Lipstraw said. “We wanted to see how she’d react when encountered by a stranger.”
        Lipstraw shared what an average day might look like for Lilly.
        “We start our day with getting acquainted with all of the kids. We have the new Intermediate School, which is connected to R.C. Waters, and we go to different entrances in the building and visit the classrooms,” she said. “Right now, with everyone getting familiar with her, I’m doing presentations and talking about what her training entails and what the commands are. She’s there for the mental health and emotional help with the kids. A typical day is her and I visiting and taking care of the kids and making sure they’re comfortable with her.
        “She’s been great with the kids. She loves the attention and is really good at noticing things – if something is off, and she will go to a situation if she sees that there’s something wrong,” she said.
        “Mental health has become such a bigger focus,” Lipstraw said. “People will start to look at the benefits of having a therapy dog, so I do see it growing more.”
        Superintendent Cathy Bergman talked about the benefit of having the canines in the school.
        “We have had therapy dogs for quite some time now. Before Lilly, we had Dixie, and we also have Bella, who’s at the high school. Therapy dogs provide comfort, affection and unconditional love, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness among students,” Bergman said. “The opportunity to spend time with a therapy dog can serve as a motivating factor for students to strive for success, especially in our K-6 building.
        “Overall, therapy dogs can contribute to creating a supportive and nurturing school environment where students feel valued, cared for, and emotionally supported – ultimately enhancing their overall well-being and academic success. We are delighted to have them in our schools.”
        Amanda Perkins, a nurse who authored an essay in 2020 titled, “The Benefits of Pet Therapy” in “Nursing Made Incredibly Easy,” had this to say about pet therapy:
        “Pets have been documented since as early as 3000 BCE, with a long history of benefiting the humans interacting with them in a variety of different ways. A quick internet search yields myriad articles on the benefits of pets, such as decreased BP, stress and anxiety.
        “Pet therapy can be used in a variety of settings from pediatrics to geriatrics. Therapy animals visit patients in hospitals, long-term-care settings, hospice centers, and schools. Animals that may be used in pet therapy programs include cats, dogs, birds, guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, horses, and dolphins. Although these animals are the most frequently used in pet therapy, there are many other animals that can be used in a therapeutic way.”


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association