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Animals play vital role in healing for Stoneman Douglas students

Posted at 10:32 PM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 04:36:25-05

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and teachers and staff have spent most of their time in school the last two days talking about what happened, their emotions and their fears.

FULL COVERAGE: Parkland school shooting

The goal is to help each other get though this pain they feel. But there is something else at school helping everyone find a way to smile, even for a moment.

This week, both students and teachers have expressed the need and the relief they are getting from therapy animals.

Critters who provide comfort in this time of crisis have flocked to the school to help.

“He’s still baby like," said Dean Swade, who owns a comfort bird named Tango.

Swade and his blue macaw are on a special mission.

“I’m trying to be supportive," said Swade, who lives near the school. "That’s what I think everyone in this neighborhood should do, is be supportive of the children. I think it’s really important, it has a tremendous impact." 

We watched as he walked around Stoneman Douglas handing out gift cards to deputies and kids and lending a feather to students still grieving from the shooting.

“You’re in our thoughts thank you, you’re welcome" Dean said to a group of students leaving school.

Students like sophomore Liam Kiernan are grateful for the love and support. He lost his friend, Gina Montalto, during the shooting.

“It truly is some of the best in humanity," he said. “This tragedy won’t get me down. I may have lost my friend but she’s not gone until I forget her, and I never will."

Julie and Jay Levy drove all the way from Boca Raton with their dog, Marcella.

“She just puts a smile on people’s face," said Jay.

They wrapped up a special therapy session with students in the school auditorium on Wednesday.

“As soon as we walked in, the students went crazy. They tackled her and she tackled them. They were smiling and laughing," said Julie. “I think therapy dogs are the best medicine. They make people feel good."

Therapy dog specialist Harryette Roth with said the animals seen at the high school this week are playing a vital role in this time of healing. Her 14-year old dog, Chuck, does a lot of work as a therapy dog at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

“It's unconditional love. They don’t judge people, they give them whatever comfort they need," she said. “It gives them a break in their pain and what they’re going through."

The Levy family said they plan to be back here again Friday with Marcella to once again provide some comfort and support to the students as they wrap up their first week back to school. They also have been invited to go back to the school next week to continue animal therapy.