Sonny the Pom provides calm for students
Sonny, an 8-year-old Pomeranian and his companion, Sherry Lynch, recently visited Northwestern Lehigh High School to help students decrease stress during exam week.
Lynch and Sonny, members of Lehigh Valley Therapy Dogs, visited with 180 students and staff.
Students could visit with the 6-pound Pomeranian during exams to benefit from his calming energy.
According to a Washington State University study, petting animals, even if they are not one’s own, for 10 minutes, lowers stress levels.
Therapy Dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort and support to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other locations where there has been trauma, stress or anxiety.
Lynch doesn’t mind if Sonny steals the show. She knew Sonny was made for this sort of work at a very early age.
“I bred him and I just knew he had the personality for this,” she said.
Lynch knows what she’s talking about.
“I’ve been involved in training dogs for 20 years,” she stated. “I even appeared on the Animal Planet show “Pet Star,” with Mario Lopez.”
She notes not all dogs, even if they have a calm disposition, are suited to offer therapy to humans.
“You need to have certain characteristics,” Lynch stated. “For example, you have to make sure the dog is comfortable on elevators, and with equipment, like wheelchairs.”
Lynch said in addition, the dog has to have a nonreactive manner with regard to other dogs and has to be able to handle loud noises well.
“He can flinch, but not head for the hills,” she stated. “Some dogs because of their size, aren’t a good match for younger children. And some people, even those more seasoned (nursing home residents) aren’t keen on having visits from dogs.”
Lynch said she likes the students who are at the middle school age and older.
“Because they are respectful of Sonny’s size and it’s not like they’re dropping toys on Sonny’s head.”
Lynch added although some students want to cuddle, dogs are trained not to lick their faces.
“Sonny can tell me when he’s had enough,” Lynch said. “After about two hours of visiting with students, Sonny was ready to go. He just barked a couple times and I knew he was ready to leave.
“The primary rule at Lehigh Valley Therapy Dogs is a dog must be allowed to say no.”
Lynch loves what she does.
“I think of it as charity — my way of giving to the community,” she said. “I love sharing my dog with people.
“Sonny’s personality is something that has to be shared.”
Sonny and Lynch have also visited college campuses, including Muhlenberg and Kutztown.
Lynch said schools, Scouts or other organizations may contact Ann Marie Markowitz, visit coordinator for LVTD, who pairs teams with the location and situation.
“We have been invited back to Northwestern Lehigh High School from 10:15 a.m. to noon on May 28,” Lynch said.
“I have already accepted the invitation through our visit coordinator.”