New therapy dog will visit Cold Lake High School three days a week
Cold Lake High School is in the process of getting a service dog for their school thanks to their open-minded staff and administration. Teacher (and Cold Lake City Councillor) Darrell MacDonald wanted to bring such a dog into the school ever since he attended a professional development day where he learned about the benefits of having animals in schools.
“It’s a positive experience for the students because animals don’t judge. They love unconditionally. They can help students deal with anxiety, depression, and teach them lessons in life.” And he knows it works. When he brought his own dog into the school, he saw how uncommunicative students began to open up to him. He also noticed students who were prone to skip class were now motivated to not only go to class, but to get there on time.
Once MacDonald goes through a series of steps to bond with the dog, he will be bringing the dog to the school so she can get used to the environment. “I’ll be taking her to the school when it’s empty. Then she comes back another day when the students are in class so she can roam the hallways. And finally, she goes to the school when the bell rings and she can see everyone”. Because the staff does respect the fact that some people may have dog allergies or fears, letters will be going home to parents explaining there will be a service dog in the school. The school will be set up with dog-friendly zones zones, and the dog will be groomed regularity to minimize exposure to dandruff. Nikki is considered a working dog though; she is not a pet.
MacDonald says she will be at the school three times a week, alternating between mornings and afternoons, and when she is not at school, she will be going home with him (the handler) and his family. The school budgeted $15,000 for the dog. That includes her crate, food, and anything else she needed. “We are under budget; we have spent around $12,000,” explained MacDonald.
With all the requests MacDonald has already received, it sounds like Nikki (who comes from Appleridge) will be a welcome addition to the high school.