photo of a therapy dog with a staff member and a student

Questar III School Counselor Mari Warfel-O’Keefe and a CGEC student take a break with one of CGEC’s therapy dogs.


The two newest members of the Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) community are also proving to be some of the most popular. Ziggy and Einstein, two certified therapy dogs visit CGEC twice each week. Dozens of clinical studies demonstrate the positive effects therapy dogs provide in school communities. Within Questar III, therapy dogs visit all our buildings throughout the school year, on a regular or an as-needed basis.

Benefits of having therapy dogs in school include increased attendance, providing support during potentially difficult or anxiety-inducing events, and offering general comfort for staff. Often, a visiting therapy dog brings smiles and excitement from students and staff alike as the dog makes the rounds through the building.

Ziggy and Einstein are both rescue dogs who live with Questar III School Counselor Mari Warfel-O’Keefe. They have gone through extensive training to achieve their certifications.

In observing interactions with therapy dogs over the years, it is easy to see what a calming presence they provide, and how they help encourage communication and connecting with others. They do not see race, disabilities, cultural differences or socio-economic factors and they provide comfort, attention and love to anyone and everyone,” said Warfel-O’Keefe.

group photo of staff and students with a therapy dog

Ziggy and Einstein are two of the most beloved members of the CGEC community

An increasing number of local schools, such as Germantown, Chatham, East Greenbush, Ichabod Crane and Taconic Hills have therapy dogs in their buildings. Therapy Dogs International summarizes how therapy dogs can help in ways traditional medical care cannot.

“Four-footed therapists give something medical science can’t do, without the use of drugs. It has been clinically proven that through petting, touching and talking with animals, patients’ blood pressure is lowered, stress relieved and depression eased.”

“Ziggy and Einstein are wonderful additions to the CGEC family. Our students really enjoy greeting and interacting with them during their visits. It has been easy to see what a big difference it makes, especially for someone having a stressful day, to spend even a minute or two petting a furry friend and how it also helps staff connect with students in such a positive way. This fits in well with our goals of building strong communication and engagement skills, as well as promoting wellness and empathy, to help our students become prepared to be good citizens as well as successful future members of the workforce,” said CGEC Principal Jake Stomieroski.

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