- School Pet
Dear OLGC Families,
The 2018-2019 school year ended with students voting to have a school pet as a result of our 50 State Challenge during our Fun Run Fundraiser. Although students suggested a school llama, sheep, donkey, and other animals, the animal with the most votes was a school dog. We began researching to see if this was a possibility and found that many area schools have welcomed therapy dogs to support positive behavior and achievement.
Our school staff is excited to introduce you to our newest staff member, Cru (short for Crusader). Cru was born on July 5, 2019. He is a 10-week-old Australian Labradoodle. The Australian Labradoodle breed originated as a working dog for those with special needs. They are non-shedding and hypoallergenic, and have a great temperament. This multi- generational breed combines Poodle, Labrador and Cocker Spaniel and is known for being smart, easy to train, and their allergy friendly coats. Once full grown, Cru will weigh approximately 25-35 lbs.Cru is set to become an integral part of our school community and is undergoing training to be our “school dog.” Cru’s training goal is to become a fully qualified Pet Therapy Dog to work with students who need additional learning support. While we will refer to Cru as our “school pet,” once he completes his training, he will be a working dog with a specific skill set aimed at helping students with learning needs. Cru is privately-owned and will be a frequent guest at OLGC Parish School.
What are the benefits of having a school dog?
There are many benefits of introducing canines into a learning environment. These include:
- Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving and game-playing
- Social – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and focusedinteraction with others
- Emotional – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provokinglaughter and fun. Dogs can also teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety.
- Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with painmanagement, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses
- Environmental – a dog in a school increases the sense of a family environment, with all of the above benefitscontinuing long after the school day is over.
- Reading – reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, throughboth the calming effect the dog’s presence has on children as well as the fact that a dog will listen to children read without being judgemental or critical. This comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading and provides them with the confidence to read aloud.
Some concerns you might have:
We understand that many of you might have concerns about a canine at OLGC. If you have additional concerns other than those listed below, please contact the office:
What if my child is allergic to dogs?
It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a dog in the school. We selected Cru for his allergy friendly attributes. Cru will be subject to a thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. We will only allow him in situations with students who voluntarily wish to work with him. We will request your permission in advance of Cru having access to, and working with, your child in school.
How will Cru be cared for, trained and handled?
Cru will be extremely well looked after. He will live with Mr. and Mrs. Hunt and will come to school most days but will stay safely in the office until satisfactory training is completed. He will then, in time, listen to students read in a controlled setting and will always be accompanied by a trained adult. He will undergo thorough and rigorous training (beginning with puppy classes) so he will be extremely well-behaved. Upon completion of training, Cru will be assessed by a therapy dog assessor before working with any children. While Cru is at OLGC he will have access to a dog crate in the office where he can relax during the day. This is where he will spend most of his time initially. Cru will visit the vet regularly for all his injections as well as regular check-ups. If Cru is unwell for any reason, he will stay at home with a dog sitter!
What if my child is scared of dogs?
Some children may have had upsetting experiences and thus have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Cru will only be in contact with children whose parents have given their permission. However, Cru’s training will help him to be calm and gentle around children; he is already showing signs of a very loving and gentle nature. Experience and research have shown that, with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and grow in respect and appreciation for them. In addition, students will learn how to properly interact with Cru prior to any interactions.
When will Cru visit the classroom?
An important part of Cru’s training is becoming acclimated to the school environment. There may be times when we introduce Cru to classrooms without physical contact with students for socialization purposes. During this time, students will learn about Cru and the appropriate ways that they should interact with puppies and canines both inside and outside a school environment. This is a vital part of Cru’s training so that he understands how to interact with students and how a student should interact with him.
When will Cru gain therapy dog status and begin working with students?
Cru will be eligible to gain therapy dog status and begin working with students once he is one year of age and passes all his observations. It was important to us that he begin working on his temperament, obedience, behavior and socialization at an early age. By obtaining Cru as a puppy, we can monitor and supervise his progress and ensure that he is appropriately trained to work in a classroom setting.
We hope you will join us in welcoming Cru to the OLGC school family and embrace all that he has to offer the school. A letter to seek your permission regarding contact with Cru will be sent home at the appropriate time before contact becomes an option. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Melissa Hunt, principal