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Therapy dogs back to work for Topeka Public Schools



TOPEKA, Kan. – The pandemic has put a lot of people out of work and taken some out of the classroom. Both of which happened to some four-legged employees in Topeka’s 501 school district.

But with COVID cases dropping, the pups are getting back to work doing what they love.

Oscar Munoz is one of those furry friends. He’s a 7-year-old Shitzu Lhasa Apso mix and a rescue, turned professional working dog, at Topeka High.

“He’s got such a funny little look to him, it’s impossible not to smile at him even if you’re having a bad day,” said Norella Munoz, Oscar’s owner and a special education social worker.

Oscar went through nine months of training to become a therapy dog by a company called Cares Incorporated in Concordia. The extensive training teaches dogs like Oscar to be calm and obedient in any type of situation, and provide comfort to people who need it.

“A lot of times they don’t even have to talk to me, they just interact with the dog, they get calmed down, they feel better,” Munoz said.

He’s one of 14 dogs that work in the district’s therapy dog program. He roams the halls, loving on staff and students to help brighten their day.

“People just love, you know, sitting by him having them on their lap,” Munoz said.

Junior Zoe Roth met Oscar the first time during his interview and talked about why she’s excited the program is offered in the district.

“I know a ton of people who routinely get anxiety attacks, especially now,” Roth said. “And I know people with therapy dogs and it helps them a lot.”

And now that Oscar’s back in business, he’ll be busy all over Topeka High, making days a little less rough for those he meets.