The Bark Behind Mental Health

Tank, Mill Creek’s service dog, helps a variety of students with things such as anxiety and depression

By Bailey Welshans

If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know the amount of love and affection they can bring to you and your family. However, dogs also have some powerful mental health benefits, according to HelpGuide.org.

Dogs can help reduce anxiety and depression, encourage exercise, and ease stress for their owners. Any dog is capable of being trained as a full-time service dog for more therapy-focused purposes.

At Mill Creek Middle School, there is a new friendly face walking the halls. The school welcomed Tank after the death of Dexter, Mill Creek’s long-time service dog. Tank, a yellow lab, has won the hearts of students, administrators, teachers, and community members throughout Dexter.

Tank, the new service dog at Mill Creek, excited about a treat he is about to receive.

Mill Creek Principal Jami Bronson, noted the love Tank has been given since his arrival and how he has reciprocated that love soothing and bettering many students’ days.

“I have watched, in the short time Tank has been here, help calm students who may be aggressive, to helping calm a child facing a panic attack,” Bronson said. “Tank seems to have the ability to read when a child is upset and reacts to their emotions, sometimes lying down next to the child, allowing hugs and kisses.”

Before he arrived at Mill Creek, Tank went through training, specifically to assist students in a school atmosphere that includes hundreds of kids, noises, floor surfaces, and lots of interaction with people.

“We have many students who face various struggles that have written into a support plan to have Tank available to help address the situation,” Bronson said. “The furry, four-legged, cutie has a special talent.”

The support from the community has helped place Tank where he is now. The Rotary Club provides food, veterinary care, and training for him. Without their support, Bronson said, Mill Creek wouldn’t be able to host a dog.

Senior Morgan Rogers said her dog, a Black Labrador and Great Dane mix, is always there to help her through anxiety attacks when they arise.

“My dog is the most human-sensitive and caring dog,” Rogers said. “Whenever I have anxiety attacks, he sticks to my side and listens really well.”

According to Principal Kit Moran, the reason DHS does not have a dog is because nobody has really talked about one being here.

“If we get a dog, it couldn’t be on my plate or my assistant principal’s,” Moran said.

In a survey of 54 students, 90 percent of the students agreed that dogs help them feel calm when they are upset.

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