Resurrection Prep student training therapy dog for her school

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Resurrection Prep student training therapy dog for her school

Mary Moroko, handles Katie, the new therapy dog at Resurrection College Prep High School, as she visits the cafeteria, classes and greets students as they change classes on Jan. 10, 2024. Katie lives with the Moroko’s and their other dog Patrick who is the therapy dog at St. Patrick High School. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mary Moroko handles Katie, the new therapy dog during a visit to the cafeteria at Resurrection College Prep High School, on Jan. 10, 2024. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nallely Navarro and Jayla Simpao pet Katie as she visits their class. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
April Bolanos watches from her desk as Nayeli Rivera and Janiya Lebron pet Katie when she visits their classroom. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Elizabeth Johnson and Kristen Sak take a break from their studies to greet Katie. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Moroko holds onto Katie as Brianna Murphy, Margaret Fennessy and Anne Doherty pet her during a visit to their class on Jan. 10, 2024. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
With her student ID dangling from her collar, Katie sits on the couch in the resource room. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Katie greets students as they change classes on Jan. 10, 2024. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Katie negotiates a treat from Moroko during a break. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Resurrection College Preparatory High School, 7500 W. Talcott Ave., has a new member of the student body who visits for a few hours each Friday morning to greet students and help alleviate their stress.

She is Katie, a one-year-old chocolate labradoodle who was rescued by her owner, Resurrection senior Mary Moroko, and her family.

Moroko is training Katie to be a comfort dog for the school.

Katie follows in the footsteps of her adopted brother, Patrick, who is a comfort dog at St. Patrick High School, where Moroko’s brother is a student.

As Katie walks the halls during changing periods or visits the cafeteria or classrooms — wearing a red T-shirt with the letters RES in capital white letters with sparkles and a sparkly red bow by her ear — students’ faces break out in smiles and a chorus of “Awwws” and “Ohhhhs” can be heard from onlooking students and staff.

In April 2022, the Morokos rescued Katie when she was little more than a month old after they saw a post on social media about someone seeking to rehome her. Katie was very sick, Mary Moroko said, and the family nursed her back to health.

“She made such a positive difference in our lives, and Patrick did too, so we kind of just had this idea that since they helped our family so much that they could help other people and make a difference in other people’s lives as well,” Moroko said while sitting on a couch with Katie in the school’s resource room and feeding Katie treats on Jan. 10. 

Each time Katie comes to school, she receives a bath beforehand to cut down on the dander for anyone allergic to dogs.

Moroko and Katie sit outside the lunchroom during the free flex period on Fridays so students can visit with the dog.

“They get really excited when she is here, and she just lightens people’s days, and I think that means a lot,” Moroko said. “It’s just really awesome to see.”

Katie helps relieve the stress in Moroko’s life, she said.

“It’s really nice to bring her here and have her be that for other people,” she said.

It is still the early days of Katie’s training, and she is getting better each day, Moroko said. They train very often, she said, following the steps and tests from the American Kennel Club for therapy dogs.

Based on the success of her training, Katie will increase her hours at the school during the week. After Mary graduates this spring, her mother, Melissa Moroko, and her aunt could bring Katie to the school next year.

Katie’s visits benefit the wider school community, said Patricia Caine, assistant principal of student services.

“In general, [Katie] offers a lot of joy and comfort to our students,” Caine said.

Research shows that comfort and therapy dogs reduce stress among people, and the school has heard that from its students, she said.

“School therapy dogs, as we know, can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and boost academic focus,” Caine said. “So in the process, students have a reduction in their anxiety, which heightens their motivation to participate in the learning endeavors at our school.”

Students today are often anxious, Caine said, so a therapy dog helps soothe them.

In contrast to her brother Patrick, who tends to be more energetic with the boys at St. Patrick High School, often jumping up on tables or into the school pool, Katie is a calmer dog, which is better for the girls at Resurrection, said Caine.

“When we first had Katie, she was a lot more rambunctious,” Caine said. “Through her training, she is a little bit more calming. For our girls, in our school, that is super helpful. If they can just come and sit and pet the dog, which is what we see on Fridays, she offers that kind of immediate relief.”

Therapy and comfort dogs can also help students who are shy or less verbal.

“That type of immediate warmth and acceptance can really help these kids who are less socially active among students,” she said.



  • dogs
  • high schools

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