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Blog: Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Howe Has a New Dog in Town

This September, Howe Middle welcomed a new Vice-Principal, Ms. Magis (me!) and her furry assistant, Santini. I have been volunteering with PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society) for the past eight years, raising puppies to become Service Dogs. PADS is a non-profit society that trains dogs for people with physical disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing and as Trauma/Therapy Intervention Dogs.

PADS Accredited Facility/Therapy dogs bring many benefits to the entire school and are especially amazing at dealing with students who have anxiety and autism. The cathartic touch of an animal brings down the heart rate and calms the mind. I have used dogs to work with students who are dealing with major life trauma, such as parents divorcing, the loss of a parent or close family member or with students who have suffered abuse. The unconditional love of a dog is just what many students need to feel safe and comforted while at school.

Santini is amazing for children with ADHD or sensory issues. There are many children within each classroom that need help regulating their bodies and emotions. The simple act of being able to sit or lay beside the dog to get work done allows many children to succeed independently. Santini has also helped many children sit through assemblies that couldn’t otherwise be part of this type of community building experience.  Finally, there are always some kids that have a difficult time establishing friendships.  Thankfully, a Therapy dog will be anyone’s friend and when you get to hang out with a dog other kids quickly gravitate and join in and friendship issues are solved!

This year, Santini has made a special connection with one particular student who is part of our intensive behaviour DEN program. Santini has convinced this student to attend one class per day, which is something he was unwilling to do before her arrival.

Santini has a special way of working with adults and because of her acute sense of emotion, often seeking out staff who just need a little extra TLC.  She has been known to walk around during staff meetings and sit beside the teacher who needs her most that particular day.  Santini has also diffused parents who are emotional and upset during IEP or care team meeting when discussions about their child become overwhelming.

Having a PADS Dog at Howe Middle brings a little bit of sunshine to an entire school community on a daily basis in some way and she is excited to continue this important work for the rest of the year.

Vice-Principal, Colleen & Gordie Howe Middle School