By Mary Sage
Adrianna Prado, a third-year doctoral student in Baylor School of Education’s online EdD in Learning and Organizational Change, has combined her love of education and of animals to provide meaningful service to communities as part of a therapy dog team. She said her certified therapy sheepadoodle, Stella, has been the “paws of Christ” in settings ranging from library reading events to tragedy recovery.
A special education specialist in San Antonio’s Northside ISD, Prado took Stella to Uvalde in the aftermath of the school shooting at Robb Elementary in late May, serving with Therapy Animals of San Antonio to offer comfort and support.
“Having had family suffering loss on account of this tragic event and grieving such loss among peer educators, it was an honor to return to Uvalde . . . to give back to the community and support through the love and compassion of Stella,” Prado said.
When Stella and Prado visited Robb Elementary, Stella was able to provide comfort and love to many, also paying their respects to the families who daily visited the last place at which they dropped off their children. The two spent time with first responders at the Uvalde EMS station, funeral home, and flower shop where people were first responders, as well as the church gathering for families of those lost.
“I learned several lessons responding to this horrific event in Uvalde, but the most important one is that humanity is not lost,” Prado said. “A common theme among my visits to the community was the overwhelming graciousness the individuals had by the many blessings offered to them from all over the world.”
Prado has always been fascinated with the research that shows the value animals have in supporting mental health, anxiety diffusion, and emotional well-being. Prado and Stella work as a team and first worked in Lubbock when Prado was a special educator in Lubbock ISD. That’s where they completed therapy training and certification and began serving the community, attending reading sessions at the library and visiting nursing homes. They also joined the “Muttley Crew,” the K-9 therapy program of Lubbock ISD.
“I feel blessed to be Stella’s handler because she has provided an opportunity for us to be the feet and paws of Christ on the ground,” Prado said.
Prado said she continues to explore research about the effectiveness of dogs in everything from emotional comfort to improving educational outcomes. She said her first experiences in Lubbock taught her that Stella helped her students build positive emotional and mental capacity.
“Stella is a gift,” Prado said. “She can reach individuals in a way that I never could do without her. Stella has saved lives, she has built families up, she has built academic bridge gaps, and she has brought peace to those who have needed it the most. Stella is a true blessing from above that allows me to continue to serve as I was put on this earth to do.”