The Florida high school where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting is getting a therapy dog to help students who need emotional support.
River, a 3-month-old female Bernese mountain dog-poodle mix, has been adopted by Diana Haneski, a librarian who helped shelter 50 kids during the Valentine's Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Haneski will be able to take River into the school for anyone who needs comforting.
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting, friends and family members of the victims, as well as survivors, were showered with condolences and prayers from strangers around the country. Therapy dogs were also making the rounds at the Parkland school, area hospitals and even funerals, providing some canine comfort to those in need.
After seeing the positive affects the therapy dogs had on the shooting survivors’ healing process, Meryl Berdugo decided she wanted to help extend that support system beyond those first weeks following the deadly massacre. She launched a GoFundMe campaign to get two therapy dogs for the school. Utahbernedoodles in Idaho answered the call and donated two puppies.
On Thursday, Haneski met River for the first time in Coral Springs. She said the pooch brought tears to her eyes.
"It's magical," she said.
River will live with and go to work with Haneski. She’ll receive free basic training as well as pet therapy training thanks to Fun Dog Training so River can help the MSD community alleviate the painful memories and emotions from that day in February.
"River's gonna help in the future with a lot of struggles and trouble, and I'm trying to get myself ready to go back, so this is definitely going to help me," Haneski said.
Dog trainer Mike Miller said training River will take the entire school year. River will clock in about a week before classes begin to get acclimated to the school.
"We'll be physically going to the school with the puppy, training them in the midst of all the chaos and the bells ringing and the kids coming in and out, petting them," Miller said. "Because River's job is a very important job."
A mini bernedoodle like River averages 30 to 45 pounds (14 to 20 kilograms) fully grown.
For more information and to donate to help support the therapy dogs at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, visit the GoFundMe.