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Therapy dog working to help students in East Pennsboro School District

EAST PENNSBORO, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. - There's a new member of the East Pennsboro School District but she may look a bit different. She's got four legs, and is quite furry but also cuddly. She's also providing a valuable service to everyone in the district.

Her name is Murphy and she's a 5-month-old labradoodle who is now the district's therapy dog. She just completed her second week at East Pennsboro Middle School where school officials say they didn't realize how much she was needed until she got there.

"She just makes people happy," said Aiden Miller, a 7th grader at the middle school.

Murphy began training to be a therapy dog when she was just three-days-old she's now on the job as the district's new therapy dog.

"When students are in a situation where they are emotionally escalated and we need to de-escalate them or help them, Murphy comes in and is just an added resource to help us get past that initial barrier of calming the kids down," said Justin Newkam, assistant principal at East Pennsboro Middle School.

Students say not only does Murphy provide emotional support when they're stressed or overwhelmed with things in their lives, but she also gives them a pick-me-up when the school day seems to be dragging.

"Well it makes them happier about being at school," said Miller. "And makes them excited to be there."

Newkam is one of the five certified handlers in the district for Murphy. He says he knew the benefits adding a therapy dog would have but didn't realize just how much Murphy was needed until she got there.

"She's an invaluable resource to us now that we see her in action," said Newkam. "And the power that she has working with kids and adults."

Murphy and her five-months of training didn't come cheap. With a price tag of $13,000 the district would not have been able to afford her if it weren't for the local organization Kick in for Kids, who paid for all of Murphy's expenses.

"For them to see the importance of a therapy dog in the school building and their willingness to finance, that is just an awesome opportunity," said Newkam. "And we are forever grateful for that."

In the future the district hopes to be able to have a therapy dog in each of its four schools.