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Redwood Bark

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Meet Redwood’s PAWsome therapy dogs

In 2018, therapy dogs were introduced to the Redwood campus and have proven to be valuable members of the Wellness staff. The dogs provide companionship to students, easing their anxiety and bringing smiles to their faces. They have also been active throughout the community by working in hospitals, with first responders and at other schools.


Thornton started working at Redwood five years ago. Prior to becoming a therapy dog, he was “career changed” (meaning his training was discontinued) at Guide Dogs for the Blind for being easily distracted and overly friendly. Owner Madeleine Metzger quickly realized that while Thornton wasn’t a good fit to be a guide dog, his calm and friendly demeanor would make him a perfect therapy dog.

“[Thornton] can understand what a person is feeling,” Metzger said.  

Thornton began his therapy work at Marin Health Medical Center, where he visits patients once a week. He provides comfort to both patients and their families as they face health challenges.

“[Thornton] is a healer,” Metzger said. “[He] takes away all [the patients’] pain, all their worry.” 

Metzger then introduced Thornton to Hall Middle School, Redwood and later the Cove School. Thornton visits Redwood every other Monday during lunch. When he is not working, he enjoys playing tug of war and eating baby carrots.


Rocket has also been visiting Redwood’s campus for five years and was a breeder dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Rocket’s owner, Emily Janowsky, had done therapy work with another breeder dog andknew that she wanted to do the same with Rocket. 

Over the years, Janowsky has brought Rocket to Redwood, Hall Middle School and Marin Health Medical Center, as well as partnering with First Responder Therapy Dogs. Ja

nowsky highlights the impact that Rocket has had on students, especially those who may be struggling with anxiety or isolation. 

“Some of the kids at Redwood really struggle with anxiety or are going through something and would say, ‘It made it so muc

h easier to get out of bed today because I knew I would see Rocket at school,’” Janowsky said. 

Rocket visits Redwood every Wednesday, spending time outside the Well

ness Center and supporting students in the special education class. In addition to his therapy work, Rocket is the football team’s mascot. He attends games, practices and events. When he has some time off, he loves spending it with his dog friends and taking naps.


Nissan is also a retired breeder dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind. His calm and easygoing temperament make him an ideal therapy dog and he has worked with students both at Redwood and Hall Middle School. Nissan’s owner, Denise Knopping emphasized the impact that Nissan has had on students, with many looking forward to seeing Nissan each week. 

“There are kids both from Redwood and Hall that come up to me every single week and say, ‘I’ve been waiting [to see Nissan], I love [Nissan] so much, can I take him home?’” Knopping said. “You can tell [spending time with Nissan] is very relaxing [for students].”

Like Rocket, Nissan also visits the special education class each week, bringing joy to students. Both students and teachers have expressed how grateful they are to have Nissan visit their class. 

“When I go into the special education room, [the students] all light up and are so excited to see [Nissan],” Knopping said.

When he isn’t comforting students, he enjoys going on walks and cuddling. 

Whether they are supporting students, patients or first responders, therapy dogs are an integral part of the Redwood community. Their unique personalities and loving nature brings joy to students and teachers alike. If you are feeling down or are simply looking for some puppy love, you can find the dogs outside the Wellness Center at lunch.

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About the Contributor
Tessa DeLay
Tessa DeLay, Lifestyles Editor
Tessa DeLay is a junior at Redwood and a lifestyles editor for the Bark. She enjoys listening to music, spending time with friends, and going to the beach.