Secaucus Police Department therapy dog Oakley to be part of elementary school pilot program


Secaucus Police Department therapy dog Oakley recently paid a visit to the Huber Street School and will now be a part of a pilot program to help children develop positive socialization skills.

From left to right: Police Chief Chief Miller, Huber Street School Psychologist Zahava Pianko, Rob Valente, Police Officer Taylor Ensmann, and Mayor Michael Gonnelli. Photo courtesy of the Secaucus Police Department.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Oakley’s mere presence brightens up children’s days and the Secaucus Police Department is delighted to participate in this program where the sole beneficiaries are the youth of this Town,” Police Chief Dennis Miller said in a statement.

“We pride ourselves on community interaction and engagement and Police Officer Tyler Ensmann has taken that bar to new levels through the use of Oakley.”

Zahava Pianko, the Huber Street School psychologist, found research to support her theory that dogs create comfort and confidence in children enabling them to develop positive socialization skills.

Additionally, she theorizes that dogs create a safe working environment for students, thereby increasing their reading fluency skills.

Two times per month, Ensmann and Oakley will be present at Huber Street School during focused group teaching sessions of approximately five students at a time during the trial period, however there will be room for further expansion as the program’s effectiveness is evaluated.

The goals for the students through the use of our therapy dog will include, but not limited to: relieve stress and anxiety, increase positive mood and self-confidence, improve socialization skills and executive functioning and assist with sensory regulation.

“I think this is a wonderful program! I know the staff and students are going to love it. This program is starting at a time when we need a little more emotional support any way we can get it,” said Acting Superintendent of Schools Daniela Riser.

“Oakley will definitely bring joy into our lives. I want to thank the Chief Miller, Officer Ensmann, Mayor Gonnelli, and Ms. Pianko for getting this program off the ground!”

Additionally, a local resident, Stephanie Finelli and her therapy dog, Chipper, will also volunteer their time to participate in this program.

“I am so pleased that Oakley will be integrated into the school and I am certain the program will be a great success, as anytime Oakley is around Town Hall he lifts our spirits. This is a great cooperative effort to continue to build a strong relationship between our youngest residents and our Police Department,” stated Gonnelli.

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