Therapy Dogs Help Students Recover From School Shooting

Marshall County High School is Healing With the Help of Canines

By Catalina Barrios

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

January 23rd (2018) is a permanent marker in the memory of students at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky.  On that day, students were gathering in an open area prior to the start of classes when a 15-year old student started shooting. He killed two students and grievously injured eighteen more. The suspect was arrested shortly after the shooting and prosecutors are now pushing to have him tried in adult court.

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Directly after the shooting, officials in the small town of Benton contacted Franklin County Sheriff (Dallas Baldwin), asking him to send the K9 therapy team to Kentucky.

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office got on the road straight away, bringing Mattis and Stark along with their handler, Jason Ratcliff. The team will stay in Benton as long as they are needed. The role of this special canine therapy unit is to provide unbiased and non-threatening comfort to students and staff members traumatized by this devastating incident.

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Mattis and Stark ended up spending four days with students at Marshall County High School. The dogs stayed in the common area, where the shooting took place, so that staff and students would be drawn to heal. Therapy dogs employ cuddles to help ground victims of trauma.

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Ratcliff said students and staff members were very happy to see the dogs. Some students went back multiple times to pet the dogs and to spend time with the staff from the Sheriff’s Office.

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Credit: Facebook / Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

It’s amazing the therapeutic value that animals have and these dogs are fantastic at that. You see these kids come in, and we’ve seen a lot of heavy hearts coming through the doors this morning, but just to give them a mental break for just five, ten minutes just to sit down pet the dogs and talk to us about whatever they’re feeling,” added Ratcliff.

Our thoughts go to those affected by this terrible tragedy. A job well done goes to Mattis and Stark and the rest of the K-9 team.