Having a ruff day?

Meet Nova, LZHS’s new therapy dog.

There’s a new counselor in Student Services, who’s only three years old, has a head (and body) of white hair, will be running laps around your feet wanting attention. Meet Nova, the school’s new therapy dog.

Nova, the school’s new therapy dog, waits patiently on the front des. Nova will be seen in school Tuesdays and Thursdays, helping students and staff destress. (Photo by and used with permission of Cara Stronsky)

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Nova will be at school for all nine class periods in the counselor’s office. While having a permanent therapy dog is new to the school, the idea of bringing an animal in to help students is not.

“Student Services has been talking about trying to get a dog here for a few years now, because of the calming presence a dog brings to the building,” Cara Stronsky, school counselor and Nova’s owner, said. “Nova is very good with people, and she loves attention and most people love to give her that attention.”

Nova will be working directly with students who have special needs, but will be available to anyone who wants her. Students with special needs will help take care of Nova throughout the day by  taking her outside to, feeding her, and doing other dog-maintenance tasks. Working with pets is a good way to relieve stress, according to Stronsky.

“There’s something about having a pet near you, and being able to pet them that really does wonders to help alleviate some stress and anxiety,” Stronsky said. “I’ve been hearing that around our office this morning, and Ms. DeLuga says that [Nova] is exhibiting that calming presence.”

To accommodate people who may have dog allergies, Nova is hypoallergenic, which means she does not have any of the dander that causes allergies to flare up. The more thorough cleaning protocol due to COVID has also been another reason why Nova can be in the building for periods of time, Stronsky said.

“Due to COVID-19, the janitors have been working nonstop to clean everywhere around the building,” Peter Nadler, assistant principal for Student Services, said. “Because of the extra vacuuming and wiping down handles and areas of high contact, it has been easier to help with Nova not causing anyone’s allergies to flare up.”

Nova will be visiting specific classrooms on a schedule. Stronsky says that once things calm down and Nova has adjusted to being at school, “[she] can be brought to different classrooms when teachers request it, especially for helping kids de-stress before finals.”

Can’t wait that long to meet Nova?

“If [a teacher] wanted to have Nova visit their class, then they could email me,” Nadler said. “For students, they could come into Student Services and see if Nova is available. She does have a schedule, but if she is available, then [students] can come and see her.”