A Generational Love

On the daily, I am the recipient of beautiful, heartfelt comments commending the person that stands by my side in this photo. Many of those comments conclude with a variation of the phrase, “it takes a village.” To which I reply, “Yes, yes it does…”

I am so proud to stand next to my not-so-little-boy, a young man who proudly holds a love for all beings, great and small. It’s a love delicately nurtured and handed down from those who came before him, before me.

Our shared empathic love for animals and ability to recognize the powerful benefits of the human-animal bond is innately within our core— the result of a generational love that transcends all barriers within a given space and time.

And from that love shines a hopeful conviction; he too will use this coveted passion and make this world a better place (in fact, he already is).

For it takes a village— yes, yes it does. But not just any village, it takes a dog-friendly village.

It takes a dog-friendly village to nurture the loving boy and guide him as he becomes the loving man he is destined to be.

Me, Jacob, & Bravo

Let Me Remind You

An excerpt from my most recent blog, “Dog Save the People: My Conversation with John Bartlett.”

21st century students need more of the tangible, more ways to feel safe, secure, valued and loved, with opportunities to reciprocate those feelings towards another, without judgement (Maricevic, 2022).

Dr. Jessica Maricevic
Why therapy dogs? Why now?

This pseudo post-COVID America has unearthed a tremendous amount of pain, a pain some have tried desperately to suppress, or flat out ignore. Secondary stakeholders who acknowledge the macro reality of the invasive impact of the current geo-political climate are better equipped to consider the micro implications in the high school setting. And to those stakeholders who believe they must personally observe the influence of the macro reality in the micro setting, see with their own eyes presentable evidence of societal stressors, complex anxieties and invisible traumas to adequately address the social and emotional needs of students…

Well, read a little bit more of this post, because today’s high school students are carrying more than a load of books and a laptop with little to no storage.

So say you.

I’ll hold off on the details of my own research and findings for the time being simply to prove you don’t need to read academic journals and peer reviewed articles to establish an understanding of this crisis.

Yet, even with their respective leans, the conscious decision to report on the social and emotional concerns of teens suggests a unified effort to convey the severity of this stark reality.

Dr. Jessica Maricevic

Here are some statistics presented from three national cable news outlets within the last 12 months:

An image I captured from my television during an early morning CNN live broadcast (February 14, 2023).
Read Elizabeth Pritchett’s article in its entirety: Teenage brains aged faster
April 26, 2022 segment from MSNBC’s Morning Joe; guest Harvard University’s John Della Volpe.

Understand, the above sources are a mere snapshot of reporting from three national cable news outlets, and yes I am well aware each source brings with it their own distinct bias. Yet, even with their respective leans, the conscious decision to report on the social and emotional concerns of teens suggests a unified effort to convey the severity of this stark reality.

It is extremely important to note the three news outlets referenced here in this post have observed an increase in viewership during the years of 2016 – 20220 (Pew Research Center, 2023). The research suggests such an increase in viewership is most likely connected to presidential elections, societal conflicts, and the coronavirus pandemic (Pew Research Center, 2023).

Hypothetically, if the Pew Research Center reports either (1) a decrease the numbers of viewers, (2) a plateau of viewership (it remains at its current rate), or (3) a continued upward viewership trend for the period of 2020-2023, millions of Americans would still receive the message loud and clear, teens are hurting, they need something more, and it’s up to the adults in their lives to make it happen.

Back in my day…

As students go from class to class, they carry the weight of the world and the plight of America’s transgressions on their shoulders, they are accompanied by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, feeling down, and depressed. And then, some students hold their breath when a school wide announcement interrupts a class period without warning, flinch upon hearing an unsuspecting sound, and ask what if questions the day after cable news outlets, those very outlets referenced above, consume airwaves with incessant reporting of yet another unthinkable event.

Even with all of this chaos, students aren’t desensitized by their reality. They remain hyper vigilant, in-tune to their emotional responses, and astute to the emotional affect of others in their orbit. But that doesn’t mean they are okay.

The last thing adolescents need is another adult telling them how to manage life as a teenager, or why they need grit and perseverance to get through “these unprecedented times.” Unfortunately, the reality for today’s teens requires more than “Back in my day” talks and harping on trendy jargon (I wish it were that easy). Couple that with the contradictory expectations to prioritize emotional wellbeing and academic performance— students need something more than whatever is provided at the secondary level to meet or exceed their social and emotional needs.

I can hear stakeholders’ “yeah, but…” phrases, ready to launch their counter claims:

Yeah, but their grades are fine.

Yeah, but they’re participating in sports.

Yeah, but they’re not alone in the cafeteria.

Yeah, but they’re taking selfies.

Yeah, but they’re friends with that student; they’re not a bully.

Yeah, but they seem happy.

It’s time to stop assuming. It’s time to stop dismissing the teenage experience. It’s time to start listening, and infuse differentiated support systems that are more real-world centric.

21st century students need more of the tangible, more ways to feel safe, secure, valued and loved, with opportunities to reciprocate those feelings towards another, without judgement (Maricevic, 2022).

Establish a therapy dog program (start today).

Now more than ever, therapy dogs are a viable resource to meet those needs for all high school students— no matter the zip code, regional location or poverty designation of a given school or district.

Yeah, but…

I know, I know! You’re asking yourself, “Yeah, but what about the challenges?” Mitigating challenges, is a totally different blog all together, but believe you me, I’ve got it all covered. I will tell you this, any perceived challenges from fears to allergies can be addressed to ensure the efficacy of board policy and the sustainability of an in-house therapy dog program in your high school (Maricevic, 2022).

This is my original gif which includes slides displaying my research and findings. These slides appeared in my Fall 2022 presentation to members of Association of Professional Humane Educators (and that presentation was an awesome experience).

I’ll also tell you that any stakeholder who flat out says no to an in-house therapy dog program to meet the social and emotional needs of students, is saying no for the sake of saying no (Maricevic, 2022). Don’t forget it.

The student-therapy dog relationship in the high school setting is an indelible, transformative fixture, a relationship with the infinite ability to transcend the four year high school experience. My findings suggest the omnipresence of a therapy dog in the high school setting does more than influence the social-emotional competency development in adolescents (Maricevic, 2022). In fact, the organic development of the student-therapy dog relationship may very well be the antidote to [feel free to fill in the blank to reflect the needs of your students and high school] (Maricevic, 2022).

My study reveals much more about the therapy dog phenomenon, its profound impact on secondary students and the high school setting. I’m proud to say my study also exposes inequities that must be addressed to ensure all students are afforded the opportunity to benefit from the student-therapy dog relationship during their high school years.

The above is a mere snippet of some of the points touched upon during my conversation with John Bartlett, host and founder of Dog Save the People. I encourage you to listen to the podcast in its entirety through any of the following platforms:

And let’s connect! Share your thoughts! Questions! I look forward to it.

It’s Never ‘Just’ a Walk

Even though you might think otherwise, an outing with your doggo is never just a walk. Found moments for cognitive stimulation, whether one-on-one with a doggo, like here with Judgie Boy or the entire pack, requires just as much from me, the human, as it does for my doggo(s). It also allows me to stay current with my doggo’s communicative ways and presents opportunities for creative ingenuity to keep the fun fresh (yes, even when revisiting cognitive challenges for practice, that’s fresh-fun too)!

Our human-animal bond is strengthened by infusing opportunities for cognitive stimulation when on any venture together. And it’s this active-time spent together that invigorates the body, mind & emotions; allows for new perspectives to the world on a micro & macro level; cultivates empathy… it’s never just a walk.

So give it a try! Spice up the active-time with your doggo. Start small. Make it manageable. Enhance the good stuff you’re already doing. Consider your usual active routine & possible on-the-spot opportunities the routine itself may provide (i.e. setting), try-out an added layer of cognitive stimulation (like I’m doing here with weaving between the pillars), evaluate your doggo’s response to the activity, reassess & revise as needed.

There is one non-negotiable, no negative reinforcement! If your doggo presents a hesitant response to the added activity, respect the presentation of the doggo’s feelings with love & reassurance. Empathize with your doggo, even say “let’s try again tomorrow,” & resume the enjoyable aspects of the routine as you and your doggo have established. Build upon the fun and cognitive stimulation, love the moment, love your doggo for trying something new, & give yourself a pat on the back while you’re at it, your efforts are noticed by the one who matters, your doggo.

Don’t have a doggo but still want “in” on some of this good stuff? Here are a few ideas:

  • Join a friend on a walk with their doggo(s)
  • #Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • #Foster! Give some one-on-one active time to a doggo who needs it most! The result (1) you adopt the doggo or (2) get that doggo ready for their furever family
  • #Share this post with others
  • Connect with me ✌️❤️🐾

Actions Speak Louder Than…

Canine Courage, ©J. Maricevic, 2022

On any given day, for any given reason, the world can be a lonely, isolating place for a person navigating an internal challenge. And sometimes, those feelings are left to fester like an open sore to the person experiencing the emotions, emotions that may remain undetectable to the naked eye passing by (yes, there’s an allusion to Langston Hughes in this paragraph).

We all must be better to the stranger, the acquaintance, to those closest to us… we all must be better, for you never know of another person’s struggle…

And to be better requires courage, courage to be:

✨The individual to stand by the side of someone in the midst of a conflict…

✨The individual to stand up when bystanders appear to be oblivious to the reality of one’s struggle…

✨The individual to place assumptions aside and reach out to inquire about the well-being of another…

✨The one to say, “Sure, I’ll run alongside you!” without uttering a word…

✨The one to say, “You are not alone” without uttering a sound…

✨The one to take the kindness received, and pay it forward to another in need. #PayItForward…

Inspired by their collective canine courage, I share my artistic creation of Bravo supporting Daisy. Or is it Daisy supporting Bravo?

Is it really that important to distinguish which empathic set of paws is supporting the other? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Bravo and Daisy know that they have each other, no matter what the tide may bring. That, in itself, is just as much a comfort for the doggos as it is for their human.

There’s much to learn from our four legged friends— beings that possess the undeniable courage to do the right thing, allowing their actions to ‘speak’ louder than their … bark.


Judge under the photograph, “Love On the Beach,” by local fine arts photographer, Peter Mendelson.

I happened to get up from the banquette during a Zoom doctoral class- needed a little pistachio snack, sustenance for all this writing.

Between the time it took to grab a few pistachios and my return, Judge wiggled under the table and positioned himself in perfect proximity- he patiently awaited my return.

My stealthy, determined friend, (who by the way, was trying all night to accomplish this very feat captured in this post), achieved his goal.

Who says, “No dogs on the banquette?” Well, I did.

Until, I didn’t.

I rely on Judge. I want and need him around. What’s to say that Judge doesn’t feel the same wants and needs sometimes? Actions speak louder than words, and for that very reason, Judge can hop-on-up, any time.

And yes, this goes for Daisy too. She just had better things to do, like thrust a clean pair of socks, rolled tight, up in the air and catch it about 100 times. Needless to say, those socks went back into the wash.

The Canine Compass

A chilly Sunday evening brings me to think of warmer days.

Yes, I’m grateful for the faint summer breeze that lingers in my memory. I’m equally grateful for the night’s crisp, fall air, and for the love I receive, no matter the season, from the beautiful being that is Judge.

Judge’s love realigned my trajectory, pointed me in the very direction that I started out on when surprised with my very first puppy. I was 4 years old when this furry-best friend entered my life. From that day forward, there’s always been a dog, or two, or three, by my side.

As I reflect, it comes as no surprise to learn that the comedic legend, Gilda Radner, once said, “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures. They give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”

From age 4, to this very moment, dogs have taught me how to love, to help, to be silly, to make mistakes, to listen, to comfort… how to be fierce in the name of justice, to stand in stoic support of the weary, to do what’s right…

Ah, there were never more truer words stated than those of Gilda Radner. Forever grateful that I, too, can attest to the validity of Radner’s perspective, all because of the unconditional love I received from my canine companions of yesterday, and from the unconditional love I continue to receive from my canine compass of today.

Variations on ‘Brad’- Pop Art Meets Human-Animal Relationships

Pop Art, meet Human-Animal Relationships.

Variations on ‘Brad’ © J. Maricevic, 2021

Let’s be honest, dogs know everything. Whether we verbally tell them our thoughts, or they feel our energy, or the energy of a situation; dogs know.

And it was that all-knowing, canine superpower that inspired my original, Roy Lichtenstein-esque, digital representation of the human-animal bond. For those unfamiliar with Lichtenstein’s artistic style, he incorporated the name “Brad” in some of his Pop Art creations. It is important to note that Lichtenstein never referred to this “Brad” with a positive connotation.

For my piece, I emulated Lichtenstein’s use of the name, “Brad,” with the intentions of having “Brad” be any ‘one,’ or any ‘thing,’ that impacts an individual’s physical and/or emotional welfare and security.  

Wait, what about that canine cognition connection?

I know, from personal experience, that an individual’s physical and mental strength is restored, and their emotional fortitude reinvigorated, by the unconditional love from their four-legged friend. Dogs have the ability to identify when a “Brad” is lurking in the crevices of their person’s mind, or in the shadows of real-life, and dogs know when, and how, to intervene. The selfless-love of the all-knowing, canine companion, reaffirms a human’s sense of self, and in turn, sends the message to “Brad,” that this human, their human, is strong, confident, and supported.

So, “Beware, ‘Brad’,” for nothing can deter the empowered, especially when a dog is right by their side.