Therapy dogs in South Forsyth High School


Sadie Rawlings

Helpful, sweet, kind. These puppies are making a difference; they go from being only a couple months old at a school to 2 years old, helping someone who needs them. On Wednesdays during lunch, these puppies have greeted students in the atrium.

Kayleigh Emberton, Senior Editor

A golden lab lays on the floor chewing on a neon green toy. Her tail wags harder when students approach with smiles on their faces. Seeing a furry friend causes a student’s anxiety and stress to nearly disappear. For a while, everything is okay.

Visits to our school is a special part of the dogs’ training. Since 2016, Mrs. Mallamace has been working with the principal, Mrs. Wilson, to bring therapy dogs into this school. After much research and Mrs. Wislon’s help, Mrs. Mallamace was able to get these dogs to come to the school. Jeter, Mrs. Mallamace’s personal pet, visits on Mondays and Fridays, and Canine Assistance dogs spend time with students every Wednesday during lunch.

Jeter was certified five years ago after Mrs. Mallamace recognized his gentle and loving personality. Mrs. Mallamace loves seeing the impact he has on the school. All of the smiling students that walk past him in the hallway brings joy to her heart.

Mina Amirkhani

Jeter at work. Jeter Mallamace is a 6-year-old mini-doodle and has just been re-certified by the American Kennel Club. Every Monday and Friday he is able to come to school and be there for the students that need some extra love. He has stood in the halls greeting students for the past three years. “I thought he would be great at bringing peace and joy to others,” says Mrs. Mallamace “Especially those in pain or those suffering from depression or anxiety”.

 Canine Assistance is a program that was started by a woman named Jennifer Arnold who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager. She was in a wheelchair for many years when her father, a physician in Atlanta, saw an organization in California that trained therapy dogs for people in her position.  He wanted to bring this idea into Atlanta, but died before he could. By 1991, that dream became reality. This non-profit organization trains dogs using a Bond-Based approach to teach dogs how to push buttons, call for help, turn on and off lights, and more.

Fosters, like Mrs. Mallamace, care for the dogs until they are ready to find ‘their person’.

“I started fostering about ten months ago,” says Mrs. Mallamace. “I started with outings first. They would assign a dog to me and I would bathe it and then take it on my errands.”

When they reach around two or two and a half years, they graduate and choose their human. One of the Canine Assistance volunteers, Christen DiLeonardo, reflected on the moment that she watched her foster dog walk on that stage; “It is happy because you get to see their faces and what they bring to the person.”

Dunkin (left) and Pete (right) play. They play with a green cylinder and white bone. This is Dunkin and Pete’s first time coming to South and they greet each student with wagging tails. “I love animals and the outcome, where they go, is just really heartwarming” Christen DiLeonardo, Dunkin and Pete’s foster mom, comments on why she loves volunteering and fostering.

Volunteering through this organization allows for many to combine two passions into one.  Cathy Campfield has been working with Canine Assistance for about three years. With a passion for both dogs and gymnastics, she thought it would be perfect to way to combine the two.

“I am a gymnastics coach, so I work with kids, and I am very passionate about dogs,” Campfield states. “I thought this would be a great way to bring the two things that I cherish together.”

Bunny sits patiently. She calmly wags her tail at the sight of four teenagers smiling at her. Bunny is one of the older dogs there on Wednesday, but she was still able to greet everyone with a lot of energy and kisses. Her foster mom, Cathy Campfield says, “I thought this was a great use of my spare time and then I get to see the dogs go on to help full time”.
Grace Drawdy
Taking a break. Mocha lays down tiredly after greeting many students on their way to lunch. Even with a hurt paw, Mocha was able to love every person she sees. “I am just babysitting until they are ready to go”, says Cathy Campfield, “It is very hard and very emotional but they change their [people that receive the dogs] lives in ways that I can not even imagine”.












The dogs from Canine Assistance work to save the people who suffer from physical and mental issues. With the co-operation of the organization and the help of Mrs. Mallamace and Mrs. Wilson, the students at South Forsyth are able to relax and enjoy the love that the therapy dogs have to share.