Red Cross Honors Animal Impact Hero Who Helps Students With Therapy Dogs

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- "Heal. C'mon let's go lets go to class," Stephanie Avila says to her two therapy dogs.

Stephanie Avila is a USD 501 Topeka Public School psychologist. She helps other students with her 2 professional therapy dogs, Broghan and Gracie.

Landon Middle School 7th grader Rebecca Harrison is one of those students. She says when school gets stressful, she goes into Stephanie's office to see Broghan and Gracie.

"They cool me down and kind of make me feel warm and loved. I have a connection with these dogs, they are like family to me and I really like them," says Rebecca.

"To see how the animals work and can sense students problems and almost immediately they have a sense of that and so I feel like they are doing the job much better than I am sometimes," laughs Stephanie.

Stephanie's commitment to helping others has not gone unnoticed. The American Red Cross is recognizing Stephanie as an Animal Impact Hero.

"It something that makes me really happy to have that recognition," said Stephanie.

"The most important thing is she sees the potential in what animals can do for other people," said Janet Boos, Landon Elementary.

"I think they help students with their self esteem and that way students can get back to the business of learning. Dogs can help children's reading scores and drop out rates," says Stephanie.

And Rebecca says she is thankful to have Stephanie, Brogan and Gracie apart of her life "because I wouldn't be here if it weren't for how strong Steph and I am right now if I didn't have her. She has helped me with a lot and the dogs have too," says Rebecca.

Stephanie has a third therapy dog, Ian, a German Shepherd. All three dogs are also trained to track other dogs who are lost. Stephanie, along with her therapy dogs, helped find a Topeka family's dogs.