Friday, August 17 , 2018, 12:58 pm | A Few Clouds 76º

Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

San Marcos High School Students Make Wellness Connection with Therapy Dogs

With overall focus on teens and mental health, new campus club uses pet project to provide stress relief during finals week


High school students sighed a breath of fresh air Thursday afternoon after occupying classrooms and study areas, flipping through textbook pages, writing down notes and answering test questions.

It was time to ease stress after finals week at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara.

In an effort to rid some of the tension from the stressful testing schedule, members of the school’s new Wellness Connection Club offered a chance to relax by interacting with dogs.

The group partnered with the Santa Barbara chapter of Love on a Leash, or LOAL, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing pet therapy services.

Research has shown that pet interaction decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing endorphins.

“If you watch the students playing with the dogs you will see that the students are laughing and having fun,” LOAL member Susan Kohl explained. “The students are spending time away from themselves, and for the moment, are relaxed.”

The school quad was filled with bright-eyed students as they stopped by to pet, play and snuggle with a handful of certified therapy canines.

“Petting a dog is comforting,” said Gwen Dandridge, who was there with Maddie, her 5-year-old Golden Retriever. “People smile when they see a therapy dog and smile more when they are petting it.

“Our dogs just want to be loved and are eager to befriend anyone.”

Thursday was the first time the club made dog therapy available for students.

“We hope to offer this every semester,” San Marcos High junior Alexandria Marx told Noozhawk. “Even if it brightens just one person’s day and makes them smile, that will deem the event successful. We want happy, smart students at San Marcos.”

The Wellness Connection Club at San Marcos was founded this year by Marx and ninth-grader Emily Steidl, who serve as co-presidents. It meets twice a month on the campus, at 4750 Hollister Ave.

It already has more than 30 members and is modeled after the Santa Barbara City College Wellness Connection Club. The club also works closely with the nonprofit Mental Wellness Center.

“There is a lot of stigma around the words mental health, and we know there are students on our campus struggling with depression and anxiety,” Steidl noted. “We want to create more awareness and make it easier for them to ask for help.”

Club member Will Pace, a ninth-grader, said the group offers a safe environment where students can express their feelings and talk about struggles or conflicts.

“High school can be an especially stressful time,” he said. “It’s important to have people who care about you to rely on.”

Click here for more information about the San Marcos High School Wellness Connection Club.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.


Special Reports

Heroin Rising
<p>Lizette Correa shares a moment with her 9-month-old daughter, Layla, outside their Goleta home. Correa is about to graduate from Project Recovery, a program of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and is determined to overcome her heroin addiction — for herself and for her daughter. “I look at her and I think ‘I need to be here for her and I need to show her an example, I don’t want her to see me and learn about drugs’,” she says.</p>

In Struggle to Get Clean, and Stay That Way, Young Mother Battles Heroin Addiction

Santa Barbara County sounds alarm as opiate drug use escalates, spreads into mainstream population
Safety Net Series
<p>Charles Condelos, a retired banker, regularly goes to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for his primary care and to renew his prescription for back pain medication. He says Dr. Charles Fenzi, who was treating him that day at the Westside Clinic, and Dr. Susan Lawton are some of the best people he’s ever met.</p>

Safety Net: Patchwork of Clinics Struggles to Keep Santa Barbara County Healthy

Clinics that take all comers a lifeline for low-income patients, with new health-care law about to feed even more into overburdened system. First in a series
Prescription for Abuse
<p>American Medical Response emergency medical technicians arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with little time to spare for victims of prescription drug overdoses.</p>

Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

Evidence of addiction shows an alarming escalation, Noozhawk finds in Prescription for Abuse special report
Mental Health
<p>Rich Detty and his late wife knew something was wrong with their son, Cliff, but were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get him help from the mental health system. Cliff Detty, 46, died in April while in restraints at Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility.</p>

While Son Struggled with Mental Illness, Father Fought His Own Battle

Cliff Detty's death reveals scope, limitations of seemingly impenetrable mental health system. First in a series