Therapy Dog Leaves Paws-itive Impact On CCSD


Courtesy of Adam Nardi

ON DUTY: Deputy Sheriff Officer and SRO Adam Nardi poses with Riley after Riley is sworn in by the Arapahoe County Sheriff as the district’s first therapy dog. “We go through [schools] and Riley is very popular,” Nardi said. “We talk to administrators and school mental health staff, and if there is a need [for a therapy dog,] we tell them to reach out to us.”

Natalia Perusquia, Staff Writer

Outside of the Activities Office in IC, Deputy Sheriff Officer and School Resource Officer (SRO) Adam Nardi gathered with a crowd of students, but it was not to discipline them.

Nardi was accompanied by Riley, CCSD’s first therapy dog. Nardi handles Riley as they roam around different schools in the district, brightening up students’ and staff’s days.

Nardi became a handler after he saw the impact of Riley’s interactions with students.

“I saw the connection that this dog is able to make with students that normally as a police officer I can’t make,” Nardi said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

So far Nardi and the district have gotten positive feedback after Riley’s visits. Nardi is primarily an SRO for elementary schools; however, he and Riley went to Eaglecrest High School where they had recently lost four students, and Riley was able to support students and staff during his time there.

Activities director Krista Keogh supports and encourages the idea of therapy dogs in the district, and specifically at Creek. Keogh saw the mental health of students decline during COVID-19 and felt it would’ve been a great time for a dog like Riley to be at Creek.

“Our hope down the line would be that we would be able to have [a dog] that is [Creek’s] dog that the student body would know and be familiar with,” Keogh said. “That would be our ultimate goal and purpose. I think that we often have kids [that] are in crisis or are just a little bit stressed out or just need a little break.”

Nardi communicates with school administrators and mental health staff throughout the district, and if there is a need for a visit from Riley, he tells them to reach out.

Nardi knew he wanted to become a police officer after serving as a U.S. Marine and finding his passion to serve others. He has been a Deputy Sheriff Officer for twenty years and became a SRO four years ago.

“I care about kids, I care about schools and school safety, so I just thought it would be a neat thing to do,” Nardi said.

After a month and a half together, Nardi and Riley are still training by visiting schools throughout the district.

“As a therapy dog, Riley is going to be trained by being around people that are suffering mental health crisis[es], anxiety [and] depression, and he’ll actually go in and be around them,” Nardi said.

Riley is trained to identify the change in people’s stress hormone, cortisol, and he gives them direct support. Since Riley is a therapy dog, he is constantly learning, so his training will never truly “stop.”

Unlike an emotional support dog or a comfort dog that is trained to help an individual, Riley is trained to support many different people, whether they are students or staff.

Senior Maria Pedrosa believes that having Riley and other dogs around Creek will help students throughout their day and support them as needed.

“I have an emotional support dog,” Pedrosa said. “She’s registered and everything, and I truly wish I could just bring her to school sometimes to actually help me with going easy [throughout] my day. Sometimes school can be really stressful to me and [can] make me really anxious.”

In addition to Riley, Greenwood Village Police Department is currently looking into getting a service dog specifically for Creek.

While Nardi is optimistic that the district will get more dogs like Riley in the future, he stresses the importance of looking out for one another’s mental health.

“Mental health is such an important thing for everybody,” Nardi said. “If you see people that are having issues, go up and say something to someone, tell someone, [or] talk to someone because life is very precious.”