TCHS Rampage

Temple City High School


September 5, 2017

Your guide to behaving around therapy dogs

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Sophomore Samantha Chang tugged on a weathered leash to catch the attention of a large Siberian Husky, whose thick, multicolored coat and striking blue eyes silently begged for a belly rub.
Accompanied by wagging tails and eager kisses, English teacher Mr. Savay Lieu, Art teacher and Peer Listener Director Ms. Sue Hook, Sophomores Phoebe Loh, Samantha Chang and Seniors Tiffany Luong and Nichole Gatten began their pilot therapy dog program training at TCHS.
The girls will take turns bringing the two therapy dogs into their classrooms, ready to help struggling students.
Although it is tempting to pet or call the dogs, it is important for students to not distract them since they are currently being trained and are currently adapting to their new, interesting enivornment.
“Students should ignore the dogs as much as possible,” Mr. Lieu said. “There will be exceptions to that. If she is seated quietly and calmly or laying down, they can pet her, but they should always ask the handler, whether it’s me or the students.”
Mr. Lieu’s two-year-old husky, Cabby, is joined by Ms. Hook’s 10-month-old standard poodle, Lexi. The program’s panel, which included Mr. Lieu, Ms. Hook, Ms. Vanessa Hadikusumah, Ms. Kendra Miller and Ms. Stacy Rudzik, selected trainers from a large pool of applicants.
They searched for well developed communication skills, experience with training dogs, commitment and confidence.
The girls need to get signatures from all their teachers before they can start bringing Cabby and Lexi into classrooms. They must show that they are responsible, mature, and on top of their schoolwork to manage their academics when the dog is present.
The trainers will learn to juggle school and the dog as time passes. They are expected to be model citizens on campus at all times, and need to be organized, patient and socially responsible.
As the dogs’ behavior progresses, they will come to class more often.
During school, students should not feed the dogs or call out to them, because that reinforces bad habits and distracts them from their training and purpose. It’s important to ignore the dogs until the appropriate time.
If a student is unsure when the appropriate time is, ask the handler. Students should go about their daily activities as normal to ensure that the dogs receive their full training.
“I think it’s important to have a program like this because it can impact many lives of students and staff,” Loh said. “I wanted to be a part of this program because I love dogs and it allows me to learn more about how dogs can positively impact the lives of the people around them.”
According to studies done by the Australian Companion Animal Council, dogs in the classroom have a positive impact on students’ physical, emotional, social and cognitive well-being.
Properly trained, new therapy dogs are capable of alleviating the stress and anxiety levels of students.
“I feel quite excited to be one of the first people to try this program out at TCHS,” Chang said. “It’s good that we’re introducing people to the idea of therapy animals, and at the same time we’re educating those people too.”
If the program is successful for the 2017-2018 school year, the therapy dog program will continue to grow.
“I hope the campus will be more like a home than simply a place to go to,” Mr. Lieu said. “If the only thing this program accomplishes is making people smile, it’s a success and is more than enough.”

About the Author

Patricia Pang



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