Therapy Dogs for Parkland Shooting Survivors Honored With Own Yearbook Page

May 18, 2019 Updated: May 18, 2019

A group of therapy dogs who have been supporting students at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the 2018 Parkland shooting, have been honored with their very own yearbook page.

The team of 14 therapy dogs provided comfort in the immediate aftermath of the February 14, 2018 Parkland attack that claimed the lives of 17, when students returned to school just over a week later.

Due to popular demand, the dogs returned to the school again for the 2018-2019 academic year.

On the special page for the dogs, the school’s Aerie yearbook features Schooner Davis in a bow tie, Gail Policella, Sophie Levy, Annie Sultenfuss, River Haneski, Grace Goodwill, also known as “therapydogprincess,” and others.

The team at the high school’s yearbook thought it was only fitting to give the dogs special recognition for their work in supporting the students. The group of 14 dogs take up two rows in the yearbook and are shown after the last page of the student’s photos.

Editor-in-chief Caitlynn Tibbetts and adviser Sarah Lerner of the Aerie Yearbook team told BuzzFeed News that they wanted the yearbook to represent the school in a positive light following the horrific massacre.

Tibbetts, 17, said, “It’s a balancing act. After the shooting we wanted that yearbook to be perfect and had to cover as much as possible.

“This year, we wanted to give proper representation of our school and who we are now without giving so much focus to what happened to us in the past.”

“The therapy dogs are the one thing from last year that is permanent and positive,” she added.

Since the Valentine’s Day 2018 attack, the dogs have been key in supporting and consoling the students and staff, comforting them with the wag of a tail or a hallway handshake. The canine team attend classes and walk around the school’s courtyard as students go to the cafeteria for lunch, BuzzFeed News reported.

Some of the dogs even turned up as a comforting friend for the teens during prom.

“There’s nothing a dog can’t fix,” Lerner told BuzzFeed News. “I’ll be teaching and in comes a dog and these big 18-year-old adults all the sudden become mushy 5-year-old kids and it’s been such a comfort for us.”

It was during makeup picture day last October that Lerner decided she wanted to include the canine team in the high school’s yearbook.

“I told one of their handlers about it, and next thing I know I had 15 dogs in the room,” she recalled.

“We sat them up on chairs, they were smiling for the camera. It was the greatest day of my life.”

Just over a year on from the horrific massacre, the students and staff have had further challenges and tragedies to deal with, including the suicides of two Parkland shooting survivors this spring—Sydney Aiello, 19, and teen Calvin Desir, 16.

parkland shooting memorial
People attend a memorial service at Pine Trails Park, Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2019. 14 students and three staff members were killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Lerner added the yearbook serves as more of a “celebration,” at the request of the 35 students.

“It’s not just a yearbook — it’s a record of history.”

parkland shooting memorial
A woman visits a memorial setup at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2019. 14 students and three staff members were killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Recommended