Thursday, September 2, 2010

School District is Going to the Dogs!

By puppy raiser and leader Alice Garcia

The puppy raisers and their pup of the Las Virgenes Unified School District
Four years ago when I interviewed for a District School Nurse job with the Las Virgenes Unified School District (LVUSD), in Calabasas, Calif., my fourth Guide Dog in training, Garfield, attended the interview with me. Garfield was on his best behavior and actually slept through the interview process. At the end of the interview, I was asked if there was anything I'd would like to share about myself with the interview team. "If you hire me," I said, "you will have the privilege of having a Guide Dog in training in the district for years to come.” I did get hired, and I'm now raising my seventh Guide Dog puppy, Tally.

As you can imagine, a puppy-in-training is quite popular on campus with the students. I cover preschool through high school and am at a different school each day. The puppy visits the health office and can quickly cure a stomach ache, soothe a child that is having a bad day, or just put a smile on anyone’s face by snuggling for a hug or rolling over for a belly rub.
The staff and faculty are also positively affected by having a Guide Dog pup on campus.

Now the LVUSD has two additional puppy raisers. Kim Ellis is a biology teacher at Agoura High School, and is raising her first puppy, black Lab Cole. Cole is quite comfortable with the high school students changing classes. He knows the routine of snoozing in class and is a crowd favorite at staff meetings. Carol Martino is the principal at Sumac Elementary School; she and her husband, Gary, are also raising their first Guide Dog puppy, yellow Lab Narita. Narita was delivered to the Martinos over the summer. She will start school in September along with the 500 students that attend Sumac.

What an outstanding educational opportunity the LVUSD has presented to us as puppy raisers and the students of their district. The students, staff and faculty have learned a lot about Guide Dog etiquette and increased their awareness of the visually impaired in our society. LVUSD has provided this golden opportunity and the three of us feel privileged to bring our puppies to school each day.

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful story! It would be interesting to actually see how many of your students end up becoming puppy raisers.

    Incidentally, since it's "back to school time," I hope you and our readers will encourage students to check out the new section of our website that's just for kids at There are coloring pages, videos, activities and even a curriculum guide for teachers called GDB101.

    And I'd like to recommend a new book that's sure to be an inspiration to kids of all ages (including adults). It's called "Prove Them Wrong: The Kids Who Refused to Quit" by GDB Alumna Nancy Shugart with a forward by famed climber Erik Weihenmayer. It is filled with stories of people with disabilities who overcame the "can't do" messages they received as children.

    Thanks again for your story -- you do us proud here at GDB!