For the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, their yearbook would define their daily existence – which meant the therapy dogs that have been with them since the campus shooting.
The yearbook’s editor-in-chief, Caitlynn Tibbetts, said they wanted to make the yearbook perfect and to provide a representation of their school from last year.
“It’s a balancing act,” Tibbetts, who is a 17-year old junior, told Buzzfeed News in an interview. “After the shooting, we wanted that yearbook to be perfect and had to cover as much as possible. This year, we wanted to give proper representation of our school and who we are now without giving so much focus to what happened to us in the past.”
“The therapy dogs are the one thing from last year that is permanent and positive,” she added.
After a teenager walked onto their campus on Valentine’s Day last year, opened fire and killed 17 students and staff, the batch of therapy dogs would come by the school, visit classes, provide comforting handshakes and wag their tails outside the cafeteria to help students cope.
Through the year, the amazing dogs never left the students’ side and brought with them the positivity lost in the chaos.
“There’s nothing a dog can’t fix,” Sarah Lerner, an English and journalism teacher told Buzzfeed News. “I’ll be teaching and in comes a dog and these big 18-year old adults all the sudden become mushy 5-year old kids and it’s been such a comfort for us.”
Lerner, who was also the yearbook’s adviser, thought about the idea of including the pups in the school’s yearbook.
“I told one of their handlers about it and next thing I know I had 15 dogs in the room,” she said. “It was the greatest day of my life.”
Tibbetts said the dogs represent something good that they have gone through the year.
With the theme, “It All Depends,” the yearbook aims to highlight on the school community’s perspective, growth and their transformation since the horrific massacre.
“We wanted to focus on how everyone is feeling and going through things differently,” Tibbetts said. “All these moments and experiences define us, and it’s a matter of getting through it. Eventually, things will be better, so it’s a matter of finding the small joys and happiness in the everyday.”