By Megan Costanzo
Service dogs should be allowed at Morro Bay High School. I would like to start by saying what Ginger, my service dog, has done for me. Ginger is always there with me for blood draws. It helps me a lot because previously it was something I was scared of.
Some kids have a hard time communicating, and a service dog could help them communicate with others in a variety of ways.
When teachers were asked about how service dogs would be helpful in a school setting, Mr. Freeman, English Teacher at MBHS, replied “I think it would help students a lot, and I believe that from my own personal experience having had therapy dogs here for a lot of years. My dog Toby was in my room every day. When students would come in the room the first thing they would see would be him there. Most of them they would smile as soon as they saw him.” Smiling helps people, and just sitting with a dog can help slowly ease the pain away. “There were times when we had some students who maybe we’re having some really serious problems, may be a death in the family or something, and then the teacher or the school counselor would send for Toby, and they would take Toby up to the office, and Toby would just sit there with the student and they would be able to talk about what was going on.”
When choosing the perfect dog for training, it has to be really calm. Mr. Freeman added, “Toby used to like to almost crawl in someone’s lap and that always made them kind of laugh, but I also had to make sure that he was comfortable around different kinds of people. I had to train him so that when little kids would just crawl all over him he wouldn’t get upset, he would just stand there and take it. I had to train him when we were in say a cafeteria, or with equipment like a wheelchair, that he was okay. He would not let it upset him, and it would just be a normal part of life for him. So if you’re going to have a therapy dog, they need to be ready for every kind of person in the world.”
Ms. Coiner, Study Skills/APEX teacher at MBHS, is currently training her 4-month Welsh Corgi, Charlotte Diana, to be a service dog. She enthusiastically shared, “I see students needing time to take a break and relax. Who doesn’t relax when a puppy runs up to you to be pet? Colleges are seeing more and more emotional support dogs. Some even have happy ‘Puppy Rooms’.”
One college that has these “Puppy Rooms” is Dalhousie University, and the Vice President of Student Life, Gavin Jardine, explains that, “Mental Health is a very serious issue that we’re trying to respond to on campus. We thought this could be a very fun, cheap way of addressing that”. He added, “ ‘Puppy Rooms’ have received very positive responses from their students”.
Ms. Northcote, M.Ed. is a Orthopedically/Multi-Handicapped Teacher with San Luis County Office of Education. She has seen service dogs be helpful for students with diabetes and with students who are blind. “I have also seen service dogs be great for emotional support. Some students may have anxiety or depression and that could help them feel better at school and be able to go to class and learn.”
Mr. Voerman is a MBHS Special Day Class Teacher who says, “Having a service dog at school would be highly beneficial for emotional and therapeutic support. A service dog could offer that affection and unconditional love that is missing in students’ lives. For students with developmental disabilities or mental health issues, a service dog could play an important role in making the student feel connected and wanted in the school setting.”
Mr. Alzamora, a MBHS CEP Teacher, agrees, “Yes, dogs tend to invoke compassion in people and others benefit from companionship”.
Even Dr. Pruitt understands the benefits of a service dog. THough he seems like he is very serious about business being the Principal at MBHS, animals bring out more of the light-hearted side to him.
“I think animals are always a source of happiness for people. I don’t see any difference with that at school. I do think that many students could benefit from having an animal with them during the day, to provide support, companionship, and a source of happiness. The skills I see in service dogs is most importantly the unconditional companionship. No student should ever feel truly alone at school.”
This is very important to me, and I hope to show service dogs in a different light. This can make a big difference in others. I know how happy it made me.