Joel School Celebrates Therapy Dog’s Retirement
On April 22, the Joel School in Clinton held a special retirement ceremony for Gizmo, the therapy dog, after 12 years of helping students address their mental health needs.
Gizmo, a small Mi-Ki dog who lives in Manchester with his owner Jen Adam, is also a therapy dog mascot for the Connecticut Suicide Prevention Campaign: 1 Word, 1 Voice, 1 Life. In 2017, Gizmo became the mascot for Gizmo’s Pawesome Guide to Mental Health – a program that aims to teach kids about mental health.
Adams said that it’s not just Connecticut schools that have used Gizmo’s guide.
“We visit a lot of schools and do Zoom calls that use the curriculum for the book,” Adams said.
Five years ago, Joel School psychologist Kristina Hicks wanted to implement a program to teach elementary school students the importance of looking after their mental health. Soon after, she was introduced to Gizmo.
Thanks to a grant from the Clinton Human Services Department and the United Way of Connecticut, which developed the curriculum, Hicks was able to bring the program to the Joel School.
“The Gizmo program is important. It teaches kids how to help themselves, help each other, and how to realize when they need help and to talk to a trusted adult,” Hicks said. “The last few years have been stressful for everyone but especially for kids.”
Hicks said that over the last five years that the school has been using the Gizmo program, it’s helped reinforce the message of taking care of one’s mental health to kids.
“It’s really important that the kids hear the messages over again,” Hicks said, noting that students from preschool through fourth grade work with the program.
While quantifying the progress can be hard, Hicks said she’s seen a change in how the kids handle learning about respecting mental health. “It’s just the language they use and the culture that’s different than it used to be that has really changed,” Hicks said.
“They all have a mental health plan now, and they know what mental health even is, which is a big start. They also know to ask to speak to a trusted adult when they feel sad, mad, or worried,” Hicks explained.
While Gizmo’s curriculum is still continuing, after 12 years, it’s time for Gizmo himself to retire. As part of his farewell tour, Gizmo came to the Joel School for a special retirement ceremony.
As part of the ceremony, Gizmo was gifted a dog bandanna, a new collar, dog treats, and toys.