English teacher Brian Tippy’s therapy dogs spread positivity

Tippy and Murphy pose happily for their ID photo for Murphy’s Pet Partners badge.

Photo contributed by Brian Tippy

Tippy and Murphy pose happily for their ID photo for Murphy’s Pet Partners badge.

Talia Varsano '24, Staff Writer

English teacher Brian Tippy knew instantly that his dog had the potential to be something special after one eye-opening event. About six years ago, at a vet hospital, his dog Ajax got an eye exam. While they were at the counter waiting to pay, a lady was waiting to collect her dog’s ashes. She was crying and looked down at Ajax, who was looking at her. He went to the end of his leash and she burst into tears while petting and talking to him.  After comforting her, Ajax came back over to Tippy and he knew at that moment that he wanted Ajax to be a therapy dog.

Tippy has a total of three dogs: Ajax, Comet and Murphy; all of whom are registered with Pet Partners, a national therapy dog registry. Tippy knew he could make significant impacts on peoples’ lives and felt that his therapy dogs would be the perfect way to contribute positively to the community.

“As a kid, with my own dog growing up, if I was ever lonely, had a bad day at school or if someone was mean to me, I always had my dog. I want to share that opportunity with the community as well,” Tippy said. 

As a kid, with my own dog growing up, if I was ever lonely, had a bad day at school or if someone was mean to me, I always had my dog. I want to share that opportunity with the community as well.”

— Brian Tippy

The first place he thought to take the dogs was down the street from him at Connecticut Hospice. He called and to his surprise, they were looking for therapy dogs. Since that phone call, he has been going every Thursday for years and has noticed the influence his dogs have on people. 

“In Hospice, when people have dementia or otherwise aren’t really interacting with their families because it’s close to the end, sometimes the dog will perk them up or kind of bring them back for a minute. I find that really beautiful,” Tippy said. 

Not only does Tippy’s dogs volunteer at Hospice, but they also have made appearances at Staples High School on multiple occurrences like wellness days, midterms and finals. 

“One time Comet and I came in and sat in guidance because something bad had happened in the community, and so, we spent a few periods comforting staff and students by spending time with them,” Tippy said.

According to a study conducted by Washington State University in 2019, petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

The study is relevant to the Staples High school community as students and staff are usually stressing about their next class, sports game or test. Kira Obstintik ’22 looks forward to the therapy dog portion of wellness activities the most out of the activities provided. 

“I love their visits because when I am overwhelmed with school and life, like during midterms, finals, or just a stressful week, seeing the pups really helps me relax,” Obstintik said.

Tippy has watched Ajax, Comet and Murphy make positive impacts throughout Staples High School, Hospice and other locations. Because of the success, he is now looking to expand his trips to more places and people. 

“The therapy work has been really rewarding to share with people. They have and are still making big impacts on people’s lives,” Tippy said. “I’m constantly looking for more opportunities and events to bring the dogs in for.”