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National nonprofit brings therapy dogs to Spalding County schools after tornado devastated area

Maverick, Oliver and Cooper brought smiles to faces two weeks after the severe storms.
Credit: HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response

GRIFFIN, Ga. — Two weeks after tornadoes devastated Spalding County, a national nonprofit brought some tail-wagging friends to Griffin-Spalding County Schools to help brighten students' day Thursday.

HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response brought three specially-trained dogs to three schools to help lift the spirits of children who are living in the aftermath of this month's onslaught of tornadoes.

More than 10 tornadoes were tracked in Georgia on Jan. 12, with Griffin, Spalding County being one of the hardest-hit areas. FEMA connected the district with HOPE to help bring comfort and encouragement to some of the youngest members of the community. 

Maverick, Oliver and Cooper did just that.

The three dogs brought smiles to students at Atkinson, Jordan and Moore elementary schools.

"Students brushed their hands against the dogs' soft fur coats, giggled when the dogs rolled onto their bellies and were amazed when the dogs would let them shake their paws," organizers with the nonprofit said in a news release.

Children took a break from class to visit the comfort dogs, which was also a break from the day-to-day reality some of the students are experiencing after the severe weather.

“Many, if not most, of our students are still dealing with the stress of the recent tornado disaster," GSCS Student Support Services Director Dr. Lisa Moore said in a prepared statement. "The dogs were very calm and they gave our students the opportunity to change their focus and relieve some of their stress about the aftermath of the storm. I think this was a great opportunity for our students and staff members alike.”

HOPE’S mission is to provide comfort and encouragement through animal-assisted support to individuals affected by crises and disasters. HOPE works with a number of agencies including FEMA, Salvation Army and American Red Cross which will request the help of the teams to assist in crisis situations. The help is completely voluntary and teams are not paid. Learn more about HOPE on its website.

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