Meet Riley, CCSD’s First Therapy Dog

Riley is the district’s first therapy dog, and he was sworn in by the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office on September 12th.

On September 12th, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office swore in the newest member of their staff. Riley, a black Labrador puppy, was sworn in by Sheriff Tyler Brown and became the first therapy dog that will serve the Cherry Creek School District. Riley joins an increasing number of therapy dogs across the state of Colorado. He joins the 2 dogs serving Littleton Public Schools and one serving Douglas County School District.

Riley will work with all types of students, including those with special needs, bringing comfort to people who need it and helping reduce stress. Over the course of the next year, Riley will attend the American Kennel Club good citizen class to become a certified therapy dog. After his training is completed, he will begin training in scent detection for firearms in order to help keep school campuses safe.

A typical work day for Riley is a fairly short one, lasting from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. During this time, Riley will be on call, ready to respond to any school in the district where a student needs him.

“He is going to be available every day. It is just a matter of which school we are going to and what the needs are at that school,” said Deputy Adam Nardi, Riley’s handler. As of now, however, Riley is just making routine visits to schools for students to get to know him.

“Riley is in what I am calling a honeymoon phase,” said Deputy Nardi. “A lot of people just want to see him and interact with him.”

Deputy Nardi explains Riley’s purpose to students in the ILC classroom. (Emmi van Zoest)

The reason the district chose to adopt a therapy dog is likely based on science.

“There is scientific proof that when you pet a dog, your body produces chemicals in your brain that make you feel better. Those kids that are in crisis will hopefully be able to experience their day a bit differently after spending time with him,” said Nardi.

Riley made a visit to Eaglecrest on the 27th of September, and I was fortunate enough to follow him as he made his way around the school.

During his visit, Riley stopped in the ILC room, the activities office, and the media lab. He was stopped frequently in the hallway by students who wanted to pet him.

“Riley is mainly here to help those students who are having a not-so-great day, but he is also here to help make people who are already having a good day a little bit happier,” Nardi said.

Riley will help students at schools in the district for as long as he is physically able, and students are looking forward to seeing him many more times in the future.