A utube video showing therapy dogs visiting employees in an office setting sparked the interest of Lyn Fioravanti, Regional Wellness Coordinator for Scantic Valley Regional Health Trust. The video showed a before and after of the employees’ moods. The tenor of the room certainly turned light-hearted and more positive during and after the therapy dogs were there. This resonated with Lyn.
Lyn, who arranges special events promoting employee wellness, thought a visit from some therapy dogs to the Lower Pioneer Valley Education Collaborative school bus drivers would be just the ticket needed. Moods among the bus drivers had been low since a shake-up in their department. Stress was high and the drivers weren’t happy. Lyn contacted me at Bright Spot Therapy Dogs and together we arranged a date and time to visit.
Our Bright Spot Therapy Dogs visit wherever therapy dogs can be of help and this was something new for us. On January 25th, ten therapy dogs entered the bus drivers break room. As the door to the room opened, the noise level was noticeably subdued. Three long tables stretched out across the room with the drivers sitting around – some snacking, some cruising the internet on laptops, some playing cards. All quietly waiting for their next shift to start. As soon as they spotted the dogs coming through the door, the somber mood cracked with the sound of laughter. Two Greyhounds, a Bernese Mountain Dog, two Golden Retrievers, a Cocker Spaniel, Golden Doodle and Standard Poodle, a little mixed-breed, and with me, my Blue Belton English Setter surrounded the tables and all eyes were on the dogs.
After making the rounds, Lily and I sat down at one of the tables and had a chat with one of the female drivers. I asked if the job of a school bus driver is stressful. She answered, Yes. Then added, You’ve got as many as seventy kids in a bus at a time with one monitor. They’re bound to get pretty rowdy at times. But, for the most part they listen to me. If they don’t, I write them up and the principal takes care of them. No problem!
She went on to tell me that she has been at the job for fourteen years and really enjoys in…. You either love it, or you hate it and leave. I’ve got ten people above me in seniority, in fact, one woman just retired after driving for fifty years. A male driver sat down next to us at the table and joined in the conversation. He drives a special ed van with six kids and a monitor. I love my kids. They’re great kids. All the while he spoke, he petted Lily on the head and gave her some hugs. She’s an English Setter, right! My aunt used to breed them. They’re great dogs.
Suddenly, break was over – and off they went. Completion of their afternoon routes takes approximately two hours. Morning routes another two hours. The drivers can bid for additional hours driving teams to sports events and other activities, the female driver told me. We all love those extra hours and vie to get them. Between the morning run and afternoon run, I go home and get things done around the house. Works for me!
Moods did seem elevated as the drivers left for their afternoon routes. They particularly enjoyed seeing the variety of dogs that attained the event. Mission accomplished!