The students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have experienced unspeakable horrors and intense tribulations over the past year. But after making headlines in February 2018 for a deadly school shooting, the student body is now being featured for something a lot happier — and a lot furrier.
Approximately 44% of all U.S. households have a dog, but not many educational facilities have designated doggos in their midst. Then again, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas isn’t like most schools. After students and staff returned to school in the wake of the massacre that killed 17, a pack of smiling and wagging pups came along with them.
The 14 four-legged friends have played an integral role in allowing these high school students to have some sense of normalcy and support, bringing joy and comfort to everyone they meet. Approximately 74% of people surveyed report mental health improvements from keeping animals as pets, with dogs as one of the most popular choices of therapy animals. These good boys and girls give handshakes, go to class, and sit outside in the courtyard during lunchtime. They’ve also been there for shocking and devastating events since the shooting, including two student suicides, staffing changes, and triggering fire alarms. A few pups even went to prom.
They’ve become such an essential part of the school, in fact, that they were even granted their own page in the yearbook. The photoshoot went viral last year — not surprisingly, as those sweet faces against the ubiquitous class picture backdrop was too cute to ignore. Now that the school year is coming to a close, it’s exciting to see the pups in print. And, of course, the students want their paw prints in lieu of signatures.
Yearbook rising editor-in-chief Caitlynn Tibbetts told Buzzfeed News: “It was such a mood lifter. Including them was a really good representation of our school and what we have gone through. Seeing them is something we look forward to every day. These dogs are going to be there until the last of us are gone.”
The canine feature represents the overall feel of this yearbook, which staff adviser Sarah Lerner notes is meant to have a celebratory feel. Despite the fact that staff and students are still struggling, the finished product maintains a hopeful spirit.
Lerner told Buzzfeed, “It’s hard to be here some days because of the trauma and reliving and revisiting things. I couldn’t be prouder of my students and the yearbook they put together. Honestly, it’s my favorite. We have a different perspective on things now, and it’s not just a yearbook — it’s a record of history.”
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