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Life is Better With Butters, Tech’s New Therapy Dog


While students hurry to their next class during passing period, some stop to point and take pictures of a unique new visitor: Butters, a 115-pound Great Pyrenees, and Brooklyn Tech’s first therapy dog. Since February, Butters’ weekly visits have stirred an excited frenzy as he walks the hallways with his owner and handler, Kristin Walker. 

While Butters is Tech’s first emotional support dog, his employment is not a new practice in NYC public schools. Educators have brought therapy dogs to work since the 1990s, and the Department of Education (DOE) introduced its official Comfort Dog Program in 2017. 

Post-pandemic, a sharp decline in student mental health, and an even steeper increase in student absences focused attention on support systems for students. As of the 2021-2022 school year, over 50 NYC public high schools had therapy dogs, with over 300 more expressing interest in attaining one, according to Spectrum News NY.

Butters spends his visits with Tech’s social workers, stopping by different support groups led by social workers and guidance counselors to the delight of participating students. While a supervising social worker conducts the group, Butters relaxes with the students and receives an abundance of attention with a wagging tail, a testament to the power of canine affection. 

Biological Sciences major Penelope Flouras (‘25), a peer leader for Ms. Martini’s lunchtime support group, has witnessed the effect Butters can have on a room. “We all kind of just loosened up a bit, and we were all just happy from there on out,” she said. “It was just smiles all around.” 

One unfortunate downside is that Butters is hard to catch. In a poll conducted by The Survey, only 8% of respondents had met Butters, even though an overwhelming 89% of respondents were interested in meeting him. He only visits once a week, and his visits tend to last no longer than a few hours. Because Butters’ schedule fluctuates, his visits are dependent on his handler’s availability and which room he visits fluctuates, students rarely know when or where he will visit next. Additionally, students also must submit a signed permission slip by a parent or guardian to interact with Butters, so most are prevented from even petting him.

Nevertheless, Butters has not only served as a powerful de-stressor but also an effective marketing tool for support groups at Tech. Students, clamoring for the opportunity to pet Butters, have stopped by support groups in increasing numbers. Flouras said that new students have stopped by to meet Butters, and hopes that they will continue to attend, even when Butters is not there. 

Students have said that they could feel their “depression lifting” and their “anxiety-dissolving” while petting Butters, according to Ms. Walker. “I feel so fulfilled knowing that I am responsible for a conduit of joy.”

Butters and Ms. Walker underwent a thorough training process before coming to Tech. Once a week for eight weeks, the pair visited a New York Therapy Animals Facility. New York Therapy Animals is the most common organization that certifies therapy dogs, not only for work in schools but in hospitals and shelters as well. Once certified, Butters visited high schools on the Upper East Side and a shelter, eventually landing at Tech. 

Butters is often equally as excited to see students as they are to see him. Ms. Walker remarked that when Butters sees that he will be wearing the collar he uses on visits, he starts wagging his tail in excitement. Butters is a success story in many ways, attracting students to helpful support groups and improving the mental well-being of his visitors. 

Butters’ impact on Tech might push administrators towards attaining a full-time therapy dog, or a dog that would remain in Tech for the entire school day consistently. For this to happen, Tech would have to officially take part in the DOE’s Comfort Dog Program, in which a staff member would adopt, train, and certify a dog before being able to bring it in daily. Ms. Martini, who has played a pivotal role in getting Tech access to a therapy dog, said that joining the Comfort Dog Program “Would be a decision that Mr. Newman would make.” Although Butters only visits once a week, Ms. Martini described it as “a great partnership” to try out how having a therapy dog at Tech would work. For now, with therapy dogs still a novel concept at Tech, Butters will remain a part-time employee. 

If students want to catch a glimpse of Butters or stop by to meet him, they should contact Ms. Martini about future visit dates and be sure to get a permission slip with signed parent or guardian consent. Students who have met Butters have expressed that he has made their day better and their struggles with the stress of high school a little easier, possibly prompting Tech to take on the DOE’s Comfort Dog Program soon.

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About the Contributor
Kai Arrowood
Kai Arrowood, Junior Executive Editor
Kai Arrowood (he/him) is the Junior Executive Editor and a Co-Editor of Hard News. Kai has always found that journalism is a driving force of social, economic, and political progress. He is passionate about sharing overlooked issues with the rest of the school in order to bring to light stories that would otherwise be swept under the rug. The Survey has delved into complicated and essential issues, and Kai is eager to continue contributing to that legacy. He reads the New York Times and likes that they have variety in the topics they discuss. He aspires to be a novelist and journalist who spends his time traveling to research new books and articles. He likes to go for long runs, listen to music, and cook new foods. He thinks that the best book he has ever read is The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, because it combines meticulous historical research with beautiful prose and exploration of universal human emotion.

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