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Therapy dog provides much-needed comfort, emotional support in Palm Beach County schools

Therapy dog
Posted at 10:08 PM, May 04, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (WPTV) — A four-legged therapist is making a big impact in the School District of Palm Beach County.

Jaime the therapy dog began working with the school district's police department about a year and a half ago, visiting at least 80 schools in that time.

Every morning when the school day starts, Jaime is on the job.

"I look at Jaime as a four-legged therapist. He provides something that you and I cannot," Detective Scott Bresalier, with the school district's police department, said.

The unassuming, unconditional love that comes with a single touch. Words aren't needed when you have that calming, still presence.

Jaime is the Palm Beach County school police department's only therapy dog. He visits schools around the district but has a special connection at Indian Ridge School in West Palm Beach, where students need a little extra emotional and behavioral support.

"I feel happy because he calms me down in the morning," a student named Jason said.

"He gets his fur all over me, but I like it because then I have him everywhere I go," a student named Nicole added.

"He loves the energy of these students," Bresalier said. "He knows these students could use a lot of support and help, and that's his mission. It's what he wants to do."

Bresalier is the other half of this therapy team.

"I can talk to them as much as I want. He talks to them in a much different way," Bresalier said. "Sometimes I don't even have to say a word. I just watch them relate to the dog. You can almost see their body language start relaxing before they start school."

Bresalier takes Jaime everywhere and with purpose. The 6-year-old pup is named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg, a friend of the family.

"I wanted to do something positive for them," Bresalier said. "I wanted to help them, so I decided to name him after her. She wanted to be a physical therapist and work with children. Well, Jaime comes to school every single day and has an opportunity to work with children."

Jaime helps compliment the therapeutic mindset at Indian Ridge School, providing that extra comfort.

"If they are having any emotional disruptions or anything like that, they know they can find Jaime and pet Jaime and rub him and feel that softness," assistant principal Sharon Wood said.

Jaime is such an important part of the Indian Ridge School community that he actually has his own full page in the yearbook

"Sometimes I get a little upset when he's not here and I'm like, oh, dang it," student Nicole said. "But I'm happy that sometimes he's not here because that means he gets to go to different schools and meet other kids."

So while Jaime will go wherever he's needed, he knows he has a special home right here.

Bresalier hopes to see the therapy dog program expanded in the school police department next year.