Alex and Kali were among the many Bear Valley Elementary School students who walked into the school on Monday, the first day back in class for many Anchorage students since the 7.0 earthquake.

Alex and Kali are two crisis dogs with the group National Crisis Response Canines (NCRC).

"They're soft," said Bear Valley first grade student Dalton Ante.

"I think it's great. Fantastic. Everybody should have the opportunity to hang with a dog in the morning," said Dalton's mother Christy. "What can make you feel better than a fluffy dog?" 

Many students got a chance to pet Alex, a golden retriever, and Kali, a keeshond, as they traveled from class to class. NCRC member Margaret Griffo explained crisis dogs are different from therapy dogs because handlers receive a year of training and the dogs get 6 to 12 months of training.

Combined, Alex and Kali have supported thousands of people.

Kali, a keeshond, is a trained crisis dog for National Crisis Response Canines. Joe Vigil / KTVA

 

The group has 13 certified canines and 9 handlers in Alaska. Griffo says there are several teams in training, including in the Valley. She says the crisis dogs have supported crime victims in court, been active at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and have even visited University of Alaska Anchorage students during finals.

"They make us feel safe and just the opportunity to connect with a canine and pet reduces our stress level so that we think better," Griffo said. "We are calmer, we feel loved and cared for, and that's what our canines bring."

Jessica Guess helped bring the dogs to Bear Valley Elementary. The PTA member said she had previously seen the dogs and their handlers in action.

"I had the pleasure of meeting these ladies about a year ago and they came to our preschool and they were fantastic. And they just made the kids happy. And that's what it's all about just making our kids feel happy and safe," Guess said.

Alex has been a busy dog lately.

"She just came back on Thursday, last week, after two weeks in California supporting students returning to school after the wildfires in their community," Griffo said.

Crisis dogs are expected in more ASD schools this week.

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