Therapy Dogs

Zooey and Bendi are Lakota Schools’ Golden Retriever Companions and Friends

Zooey and Bendi are dogs that work in the Lakota Local School District as Circle-Tail-trained therapy dogs.

“Zooey greets students in the morning as they arrive, and is present in the hallways at all transition times,” says LeAnna Webber, Zooey’s handler and assistant principal of Hopewell Junior School.

They spend most days interacting with students and teachers, providing comfort and calm.

“We explained that she’s not a pet, she’s a therapy dog,” says Jen Russell, Bendi’s handler and counselor at Creekside Early Childhood School. “Our students are doing a great job at respecting her boundaries.”

Children can have individual appointments with Zooey or Bendi, which can help them self-regulate, and the dogs also visit whole classes.

“This isn’t just a dog we’re going to sit and pet; she’s incorporated into our social-emotional learning,” says Jen.

The dogs love interaction with people. After being patient and kind all day, they both like to relax and enjoy just being dogs in their “off time.”

“Zooey loves to fetch things,” says LeAnna. “I’d say her favorite toy would be any ball she can chase and bring back to you.”

Want to learn more about therapy dogs? Visit

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