Homes are always happier when one of the members of the family walks on four legs, right? We sure think so!
St. Joseph’s is proud to have the Houseparents and Pets In (HAPI) Homes program on campus. The program launched in 2017 with three dogs. We are happy to say the program gets a little “HAPI-er” every year, and keeps expanding over time.
Research shows dogs support psychological growth while increasing social skills and self-esteem in children. They provide emotional support and may decrease anxiety, which in turn has the potential to increase overall academic achievement.
“We’ve seen students who have a hard time speaking to adults or other children open-up to a dog,” said Maija, the HAPI Homes program coordinator. “Over time, that communication the student has with the dog spills over to others in the home and classroom. Before you know it, that quiet kid you worried about is a leader in his or her home and classroom … and it started with a dog.”
HAPI Homes also teaches students the responsibility that goes into caring for an animal.
Not just any four-legged friend gets to come to St. Joseph’s Indian School. Houseparents or other staff members personally own the dogs at St. Joseph’s. The dogs must meet strict guidelines to test their temperament and have documentation to prove they are up-to-date on their shots. A local K-9 police officer must deem the dog fit to be around children. If they are declared a “good citizen”, they can come to campus and visit homes and classrooms on a leash. Dogs and students are never alone together.
Let us demonstrate, with an example of a situation that happened right here on campus.
After venturing downstairs in his pajamas, a St. Joseph’s student explained to his houseparent that he could not sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he said he could see scary red eyes on the side of his closet.
After taking the student back up to his room, the houseparent returned shortly after with Sarge, the resident HAPI Homes dog, to look around. After Sarge deemed the room safe, the young boy was able to relax and slept soundly for the rest of the night.
It can be difficult for little ones to be away from home — especially when they first arrive at St. Joseph’s. Having a comforting presence that comes from a dog can be truly beneficial.
“The transformations are incredible,” said Maija. “We’re so happy to have more dogs on campus now. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids interact with them.”
Yes! The šúŋka — dog — has long played an important role in Lakota society and culture. Before the Spanish introduced horses in the 1700’s, the Lakota (Sioux) relied heavily on dogs for a variety of tasks.
Read more about The Dog.
Creating positive experiences for students that include animals is important. Along with the HAPI Homes program, St. Joseph’s Indian School has opportunities to take part in animal rescues. While not an official program, it gives the students a tremendous sense of pride to help an animal in need. You can read more about these experiences through the following stories.