WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES FEBRUARY 21, 2019 19
R’wood school celebrates Cypress the comfort dog
Speech teacher Roseann Mascia and student Briana Sacta (r.) celebrate the
fi rst birthday of Cypress, PS 81’s offi cial comfort dog.
Photo: Mark Hallum/RIDGEWOOD TIMES
BY MARK HALLUM
Anna Lampman, a 13-yearold
Girl Scout from Middle
Village, is working for her
Silver Award in a way that will
continue helping needy children
by donating a kit with various
comfort items to help them
Lampman’s eff orts began with
asking herself what items and
routines are necessary for her
before gathering items from the
community which has rallied
around her cause as more than just
a Silver Award project.
“I thought about what comforts
me at night – a stuffed animal,
brushing my teeth beforehand,
reading a book and a warm blanket
– and I researched online diff erent
homeless shelters and what kids
need and it was comfort, so I
thought it was perfect,” she said.
Since the drive is associated with
the Girl Scouts, monetary donations
were not allowed, but that has not
BY MARK HALLUM
Cypress the comfort dog has
earned his keep among staff
and students alike at P.S. 81 in
Ridgewood since being adopted in
October. As such, a large celebration
was in order at the school to recognize
his fi rst birthday.
With the front of the school decked
out in balloons, ribbons and photos
of Cypress — the little dog named
for the street on which the school
is located — the Department of
Education (DOE) sanctioned animal’s
impact on the emotional well-being
of students was not understated.
Principal Romy Diamond says
Cypress is a natural in his role, being
able to identify when children are
in distress and coming in for some
Cypress makes the rounds at
the school by starting with special
education classes before migrating
over to the speech class, where the
students find enjoyment in reading
to him, according to Diamond.
Cypress then takes a break and rests
with some of the teachers.
“He’s a community baby, he belongs
to the whole school,” Diamond said.
“This one, he’s actually amazing. If
children have meltdowns, he sits
with them. He stays perfectly calm,
they pet him. If they’re having a bad
day, they’ll take him for a walk … I’m
going to be honest, when Cypress
came and he was a little less than
six pounds, I thought this was not
the dog for my school and this is not
the dog for me. My mother wants
him to be renamed Magic because
everyone falls in love with him,
he makes everybody smile. Every
single person adores him; he’s gentle
and he’s outstanding in classes.”
Many of the staff attribute Cypress’
calm demeanor to his ability to
comfort the students.
The DOE’s comfort dog program
is expanding across the city with
schools with a high concentration
of homeless or special education
students taking priority for the first
programs so far.
“Whether it’s a reading buddy
or a warm welcome on a hard day,
comfort dogs have an impact on
school communities, contributing
to students’ academic and socialemotional
Chancellor Richard Carranza said
in October 2018, when Cypress was
brought into the program.
“This is an exciting and innovative
program, and I’m thrilled that we’re
expanding it,” he added.
Ikumi Nakajima, an outreach
manager with North Shore Animal
League, said the program started
almost by accident in 2016 when
Shellbank Middle School in Brooklyn
received a visit from the organization
and one of the teachers decided to
adopt one of the dogs.
“Next thing we know, the dog is
hanging out in the school everyday,
and we said ‘we have got to turn this
into a program,’” Nakajima said.
“The piloted comfort dog program
and the turnout was so amazing that
the DOE wanted to add more schools.
They wanted to add 30 schools which
is really difficult, but we did it.”
Samantha Gonzalez, a fifth
grader at P.S. 81, had written an
essay that led to the school adopting
a comfort dog while, Lesly Rueda
Ramales, a second grader, had the
idea for to have a party celebrating
Nakajima added that while
not all dogs are a good match for
the comfort dog program, such
as high energy dogs, the best
candidates can be older dogs with
Another school, he mentioned,
even has an older rottweiler
mix for their school, something
he bel i eves defeats the
stereotype of the breed being
School staff taking older dogs as
comfort animals for students also
helps the animals who would not
usually get adopted find a home.
P.S. 75, Corona Arts and Sciences
Academy, P.S. 120, P.S. 209, P.S. 76,
The Riverview School and I.S. 204
are just a few among the schools in
Queens to host comfort dogs.
M.V. scout brings bedtime kits to needy kids
Anna Lampman delivers bedtime bags, kits with comfort items, to
underprivileged children for her Girl Scout Silver Award.
been an obstacle to Lampman.
Lampman began by speaking with
her principal about how the school
could help and fl yers were dispersed
at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy and
the churches associated with it.
“A lot of people have been hearing
about it, people like my neighbors and
families I’ve never met at the school
have been coming up to me to talking
to me about it, asking how they can
Photo courtesy of the Lampman family
donate,” Lampman said. “As long as
I keep getting donations I’m going to
keep doing it.”
Local dentists supplied toothpaste
and toothbrushes while the locals
donated either new or used blankets
and stuff ed animals.
Lampman has been donating
since before Christmas when
she made a drop off at a center in
Long Island City.