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Lompoc High introduces district's first therapy dog to help with student anxiety

Rocky Luna, the therapy dog
Posted at 4:29 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 19:53:02-04

Lompoc High School has a new student: Rocky, the therapy dog.

“I do think he'll be a good therapist, even though he is not a human and can't really talk. I think he'll be good to be there for people,” said Haylea Cassidy, a senior at the school.

Rocky belongs to Eva Luna, who is assistant principal at Lompoc High. Luna is working with Rocky to make sure he receives his Good Canine Citizenship Certifications as well as how to interact with the students, “I volunteered to be the handler, and I'm also his owner, so I take all responsibility for his care and upkeep and he is my family, my dog.”

“Just interacting. It's just kind of de-escalation," Luna explained. "When a student is kind of feeling anxious and sort of stressed out, it's just an opportunity for a student to sort of break their focus on whatever I think has their focus and give them something else to focus on."

One of the commands they're working is hugs. “He begins to lean, lean, lean, and eventually he just flops on you.”

Many students developed anxiety due to the pandemic, so the school brought in Rocky to help them work through it. The process to bring in a therapy dog took about a year even though Rocky was adopted a couple of months ago.

“I think helping with anxiety in general, we have a lot of students post COVID that had a lot of anxiety, had a lot of other issues, and I think it's just going to help them feel a lot more comfortable and a lot better being back at school and just help them throughout their days," said Lana Huyck, the leader counselor at the school.

School officials say that anxiety may cause students to shut down and not be able to concentrate, so they hope Rocky will help with that. The plan is to have him continue to train, and then by second semester, the school hopes to have a set schedule for him.

“You want to have sort of a plan where he comes for a certain number of hours and then, you know, he would go home because like any other animal or any anybody else, he has to have a schedule and has to have his downtime as well," said Luna.

The school plans to have Rocky in the school Wellness Center where students can go to de-stress.

“Meeting him for the first time, he really exceeded my expectations. He's very soft and very well-mannered, unlike my dogs,” added Cassidy.