Liz McCormick Published

17 Therapy Dogs Now In W.Va. Schools Through ‘Friends With Paws’ 

A brown, shaggy dog is shown tilting her head to one side.
Skye is Berkeley Springs High School's new therapy dog.
Courtesy of the Office of West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice

A school in the Eastern Panhandle is the latest recipient of a therapy dog through the Communities In Schools: Friends With Paws program. 

Berkeley Springs High School in Morgan County received its very own therapy dog this week named Skye. First Lady Cathy Justice made the announcement in a press release Wednesday.

“I am very happy that we were able to place Skye in beautiful Berkeley Springs,” she said in the release. “I think this will be a great home for her, and I can’t wait to hear about all the ways that Skye’s presence will make a positive impact on students’ lives. This is a day of celebration!”

Skye is the seventeenth therapy dog to be placed in West Virginia’s public schools through Friends With Paws. The program began in April 2022 with the first placement at Welch Elementary.

The therapy dog program, according to the governor’s office, was launched as a way to alleviate some of the social-emotional effects of poverty, addiction and other at-risk situations in the state’s Communities In Schools (CIS) counties. 

Gov. Jim Justice also noted at the time of launch that the program would help to combat the emotional effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Therapy dogs, according to the National Institutes of Health, provide a benefit in the classroom by increasing a positive mood and providing anti-stress effects on the body.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) last year produced a documentary on the Friends With Paws therapy dog project under the same name. It can be viewed for free on WVPB’s YouTube channel or through PBS Passport.

“Berkeley Springs High School is very thankful for this opportunity through the Friends With Paws program. We are extremely excited to have Skye with us to support and comfort our students,” Principal Mitch Nida said.

Friends With Paws is a partnership between the governor’s office, West Virginia Communities In Schools, and the West Virginia Department of Education.

Fifty-three of the state’s 55 counties are part of CIS.