Ruby the Therapy Dog finally arrives at Greenbrier East High School

By Matthew Young, RealWV

LEWISBURG, W.Va – With the Tuesday arrival of Ruby, a female golden retriever, Greenbrier East High School (GEHS) became the thirteenth school in West Virginia to join the “Friends With Paws” therapy dog program. 

GEHS was originally scheduled to receive Marshall, a cream-colored labradoodle, last December. However, plans to introduce a therapy dog to the school were postponed until the beginning of the current academic year.

“It took a while to get there, but that’s okay,” Greenbrier County Superintendent of Schools Jeff Bryant said of the dog’s delayed arrival. “That just means we got the right one.”

Friends With Paws is an initiative of the state’s Communities In Schools (CIS) program. As explained on their website, “Friends With Paws “is West Virginia’s statewide school therapy dog program, built around in-depth research and professional training methods. Each Friends With Paws therapy dog is specially trained to respond to trauma while providing comfort, support, and love to our state’s students. Therapy dogs can also be avid “listeners,” providing an audience for children who have difficulty reading aloud in front of an entire class. The student practices reading to the dog so that they are able to gain confidence reading aloud.”

According to Bryant, GEHS Assistant Principal David Vincent will serve as Ruby’s primary handler. Vincent’s brother Mike, a guidance counselor at GEHS, will be one of the dog’s secondary handlers.

“I wanted Ruby to live with me, but my wife put an end to that pretty quickly,” Bryant added with a laugh. “That plan went down the tubes pretty fast, so the dog is not living with me.”

GEHS was one of six schools recently selected for the Friends With Paws program. Other therapy dogs to be placed include:

  • Malfoy, a yellow labrador, who will be making his home at Chapmanville Intermediate School in Logan County.
  • Skye, a brown labradoodle, who will be placed at Berkeley Springs High School in Morgan County.
  • Tora, a yellow labrador, who will be making her home at Elkins High School in Randolph County.
  • Penny, a yellow labrador, who will be placed at Pendleton County Middle-High School.
  • Meadow, a yellow labrador, who will be making her home at Washington Lands Elementary School in Marshall County.
  • The placement of Nutter, a male chocolate labrador, will be announced at a later date.

The program has been both well-received and successful in each of the previous 12 schools, and GEHS appears thus far to be on a similar trajectory. 

“Ruby is a hit,” Bryant said. “The teachers and the staff love her, and the kids of course. She is going to bring so much joy to those kids. It’s wonderful.”

For now, Bryant explained, the intention is that Ruby will spend the majority of her time at GEHS, and not travel around the county visiting other schools.

“Ruby is a Spartan,” Bryant said. “We’ll see where the program goes from here as far as other schools receiving therapy dogs. I know they’re very expensive, and there are a lot of schools that want them.”

On Monday, First Lady and Governor Cathy and Jim Justice announced the addition of 15 counties to the state’s Communities In Schools program, bringing the total number of counties to 53 – all of which are eligible to request a therapy dog. Only Pleasants and Nicholas counties have, as of yet, opted not to join the program. 

“We’re grateful to the First Lady and the Governor for selecting one of our schools in Greenbrier County to receive a therapy dog,” Bryant said. “There’s so much demand for the program, so we’re very fortunate. I see nothing but positive outcomes for students and teachers that may be dealing with some stress or anxiety. Ruby can be the medicine that they need.” 

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