Almost every Wednesday when students enter the iCenter they are greeted by a warm and furry surprise. It is the widely adored Noodle: therapy dog by day and sleepy oaf by night. Most students are thrilled by the idea of having a dog stationed in the icenter, saying it helps lower stress levels and provides comfort for the long school days. “Things are just better with Noodle. Noodle is like putting sprinkles on top of ice cream,” says junior Jayson Olson. Spectrum decided to chat with Noodle’s mother and iCenter specialist Mrs. Abeska on her fluffy companion.
We started things from the beginning by asking Mrs. Abeska about Noodle’s adoption story, “Noodle was originally purchased by another family when he was three months old. They got him from a puppy mill in Ohio, which is a pretty horrible situation. However, the family had four kids under the age of 5 and adding a puppy to the mix turned out to be too much for them. They took Noodle to the Pontiac Animal Shelter for adoption. A friend of a friend was a member of the Shelter Board and eventually we caught wind of Noodle. We went to meet him and fell in love at first sight, he was only 10 months old at the time. He was timid and afraid of everything, having been abused at the puppy mill. For the first few months, we had to pet him while he ate and could not make loud noises around him. All our loved paid off and he is now the best dog ever!” Mrs. Abeska then continued to tell the story of Noodle becoming the therapy dog at the iCenter by stating, “Noodle was one of the therapy dogs who came in during finals week for Pet Therapy Day. He was being observed by Pet-a-Pet, a non-profit therapy dog organization in Metro Detroit, to earn his title of a therapy dog, and he passed with flying colors. The students loved having the dogs at school and kept asking me about Noodle coming more often. After discovering that Novi High School also has a therapy dog, I spoke with Mr. Watson and we agreed to give it a try. Noodle’s breed is hypoallergenic so we don’t have to be worried about students with allergies. Noodle now comes to the iCenter on most Wednesdays. That is generally our busiest day in the iCenter due to his presence. In addition to the students, Noodle is also loved by many teachers. For students who are skeptical of dogs, Noodle is the perfect introduction. He will not approach you unless you call him or come over to him.”
There are many benefits from pet therapy, numerous research studies have been conducted to validate the benefits of animal assisted activity, in particular the contribution of therapy dogs. Evidence has shown that therapy dogs can enhance children’s psychological development, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem among other benefits. Dogs can also teach responsibility, compassion, and respect for other living things. Dogs in a school environment can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety, and teach skills. Here is a list of potential benefits:
Physical – Interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, and stimulates the senses.
Social – A visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well-being, and focused interaction with others.
Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing.
Emotional – An adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem and lifts mood often provoking laughter.
Environmental – a dog in a facility decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood, and this continues after visit.
School counselors are finding that the presence of a therapy dog can decrease anxiety and enable students to work through issues such as anger management, bullying tendencies, and others psychological/social problems.
To finish it off, here is some fun trivia about the furry friend featured in the iCenter:
Noodle is 11 years young
His favorite toy is his platypus, which he got in one of his christmas stockings
He loves his treats and will prance every night around 7-9pm begging for Mrs. Abeska to feed him one
Noodle can sit, shake, give high-fives, lay down, and jump up for a treat
Every night he sleeps at the end of Mrs. Abeska’s bed
Make sure to follow Noodle on instagram @noodleWBHS and tag your photos with him at #Noodlewbhs