Therapy dog brings joy to students at St. Patrick High School

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Therapy dog brings joy to students at St. Patrick High School

Students at St. Patrick High School celebrate the birthday for Patrick, their therapy dog, on Nov. 11, 2022. Patrick is at school every Wednesday and as needed. He greets students as they arrive in the morning, visits classes, is available in the library throughout the day for students to visit, is in hallways during passing periods and attends lunch periods, gym classes and special events. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Patrick walks the halls as classes change. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Students greet Patrick as he visits a classroom. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Patrick strolls down the school hall during a class change. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Patrick takes the spotlight with a Channel 7 photographer. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Patrick follows Junior Kyle Morris through the halls. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Students including junior Kyle Morris greet Patrick in a classroom. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Sophomore Luke Stuckert shakes hands with Patrick. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Patrick relaxes on the floor. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)
Students take a selfie with Patrick during his birthday party. (Cyndy Flores-Mocarski/Chicago Catholic)

On Wednesday mornings, a four-legged member of the St. Patrick High School community greets students and staff with his tail wagging. His name is Patrick and he is the school’s therapy dog.

Everyone’s face lights up when they see Patrick, whether they are staff or students, said Melissa Moroko, Patrick’s owner and chair of the school’s mothers’ club. 

Patrick, a goldendoodle Moroko’s family found on an animal-rescue website, has been visiting the school for over a year.

Moroko wanted to train Patrick as a therapy dog and needed service hours for the certification, so she immediately thought of her son’s school. After seeing students’ reactions the first day, the administration asked her to bring him back every week.

Patrick has worked up to visiting all day on Wednesdays and will be at the school several days during finals week.

After welcoming the students, Patrick and Moroko go to the library, where study halls meet every period. There Patrick visits with the students, who also help with his training, unless he is requested in another classroom.

He walks the hallways during period breaks and visits a gym class during one period. He has his own ID badge. The school even held a birthday party for him on Nov. 11 with cake and a photo booth.

“He loves every minute of it,” Moroko said. “We go with the flow with whatever we’re doing that Wednesday.”

Another school recently asked Moroko to bring Patrick to visit.

“I’m hoping that this catches on, hoping that we can save some of these kids and ease the stress of the staff,” she said. “It brings me nothing but joy.”

And she hopes it is helping the students.

“There are some kids who don’t get that unconditional love,” Moroko said. “I don’t know who they are, but I hope Pat has made a difference in their life. I hope that they feel that love from someone who loves them no matter what.”

Patrick is helping, staff members say.

“Wednesday mornings, if you stand in our lobby and watch the kids come in half asleep, etc., and as soon as they see Patrick, it’s amazing what his presence will do for them. It perks them up,” said Christian Brother David Galinski, a counselor at the school. “They kind of leave on their way to class almost totally different from when they walked in the door.”

Patrick brings an undeniable “lightness” to the vibe in the school, Brother David said.

“I never believed in it before, I have to admit, but just seeing it, it’s just amazing what he can do. Kids look forward to Wednesdays when he’s here,” he said.

Freshman Matthew Downes agrees.

“Having Patrick around is really nice, especially because I have study hall the last period of the day and he’s there just to comfort me, especially after a stressful day at school. It just really cheers me up to see him running around in the hallway wanting to play with you,” Downes said.

“Everybody, when they see Patrick, always wants to go up to him and pet him. Not even just students, teachers too. I seek him out in the morning because I want to go see him and show my love to Patrick.”

Senior Nate Otero enjoys seeing Patrick walking the hallways between periods. Patrick walks around with a tennis ball in his mouth and approaches students looking for someone to throw it for him, Otero said.

“Patrick is a wonderful dog,” he said. “Not many schools have the opportunity to have a dog walking around helping their students with their anxiety.  As soon as Pat turns the corner or you turn the corner and see him, it’s just like smiles on everyone around, laughing, happiness.”

When John Harrington started as principal this year, Patrick had been visiting the school for some time. A school where Harrington worked previously had a similar situation with a dog, so he was happy to see it going on at St. Patrick.

Patrick generally makes the start of the day enjoyable for the students and contributes to the family atmosphere at the school, Harrington said.

“On a more specific level, there’s a lot going on in the world. There’s a lot hitting these kids day in and day out,” he  said. “There is a certain element for some kids coming in and seeing Patrick, it kind of smooths over some of those rocky things that they are seeing on a daily basis.”


  • dogs
  • high schools

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