RED BANK, NJ: There’s nothing like a cute curly-haired dog walking the hallways at Red Bank Regional High School or hanging out at The Source that brings smiles to students and staff members.

The star of the show? Riley Keller, Red Bank Regional High School’s first therapy dog.

Part King Charles Cavalier and Poodle, Riley is a Cavapoo and will be celebrating his 3rd birthday on February 13th.

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Riley joined The Source staff in the Fall of 2019.  He lives with his handler/mom Ms. Suzanne Keller, Supervisor of the Source and Freshman Academy at RBRHS. Both Riley and Ms. Keller had to go through extensive training for Riley to become a therapy dog.  Riley started his training at 10 weeks of age in a beginner class for basic commands; sit, stay, come.

Advancing onto intermediate and advanced groups, he learned how to get in and out of an elevator, navigate crutches and wheelchairs.  The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program was delivered through Attitudes in Reverse (AIR).

The program focused on teaching the basics of good manners and obedience, instilling the values of responsible ownership, and strengthening the bond between the handler and the dog at home and out in the community.

Riley was assessed by AIR, was deemed AKC CGC certified and is an AIR Dogs: Paws for Minds Therapy Dog.

“What a difference a dog can make.  The students love to visit with Riley, pet him and just have him sit next to them,” said Keller.  

Riley has become part of the RBRHS family; it is not only students who come to visit with him but teachers, administrators and staff.  Students and faculty will ask about him and teachers schedule times for Riley to be part of their classes. “The joy he brings to others is so rewarding, especially during these difficult times. Everyone knows he is a therapy dog, and they talk about it- how great that he also helps to end the stigma of therapy as a mental wellness service.”

The benefits of having a therapy dog available to students, staff and in the greater school community are endless.  Research shows therapy dogs can reduce blood pressure and stress levels, decrease anxiety, increase a positive mood and ease social isolation.

Prior to the pandemic Riley could be seen roaming the hallways, greeting students at “the pit” prior to lunch, visiting classrooms with Ms. Keller and welcoming students into The Source.

Even in these trying times, Riley is still serving the students at RBRHS.  When in-person learning occurs, he visits individually with students and is wiped down in between “pets”.

There are pictures of Riley on the Source Google Classroom, allowing students to take a look at him in between classes if they are participating remotely.

Plus, Riley is an RBR social media star! 

Follow him Facebook: The Source at Red Bank Regional High School, Instagram: @thesourcerbr and Twitter: @RBR_Source.

To learn what services and programs The Source offers, read a previous TAPinto Red Bank article by clicking HERE.

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