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Certified Therapy Dog Visits Maple Dale Elementary

Murphy therapy dog at Maple Dale

Maple Dale Elementary has a new four-legged faculty member.

Murphy, a two-year-old black lab, is the school’s new certified therapy dog.

Murphy and his owner, Denny Billman, will be visiting Maple Dale every other Thursday this school year. He’ll visit with whole classes and small groups. Students will be able to read to him and even walk him in the halls.

The idea to incorporate a therapy dog into the school day came when assistant principal Mindy Zellner brought her French bulldog, Hammie, last spring.

“Having Hammie in the building for just two hours really made such a positive impact and helped to elevate everyone’s moods from staff to students,” said assistant principal, Mindy Zellner. “Coincidentally, Mr. Billman was looking to bring Murphy to Maple Dale so we are now all benefiting from this incredible partnership."

Research has shown therapy dogs can reduce student stress and anxiety as well as teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills. Another recent report shows children working with therapy dogs experienced increased motivation for learning.

Mr. Billman, a former Maple Dale parent and current Maple Dale grandparent, works with Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati. The service is free to Maple Dale. He explained to students what a therapy dog is and the “do’s” and “don’ts” of working with therapy dogs during their first visit.

Maple Dale hopes to have more therapy animals visit the school. If anyone has a certified therapy pet and is interested in working with Maple Dale students, please contact Mindy Zellner at