One thing students at USD 305 won’t miss this summer is homework. But they probably will miss getting together daily with their friends. And one friend in particular will be missed by many.
She is possibly the most popular girl at Salina South High School. She lights up a room when she enters it. She doesn’t know a stranger, and shares her love unconditionally. Her name is Penny, and she is a therapy dog.
English Teacher Carla Moore is Penny’s “mom”, and takes her everywhere she goes. As a trained therapy dog, Penny is welcome anywhere and everywhere.
Penny is a standard poodle, who has been trained to be a “hands on” dog. She is trained to be touched, to be petted, to be greeted, and to give and receive love. She spends three days a week at South.
Penny was trained through CARES, or canine assistance rehabilitation education and services, from Concordia. She was actually trained through a prison outreach program, coming from a program in Colorado. Before Moore could adopt Penny she had to go through training with her.
Moore tells KSAL News that Penny serves in her classroom, and in the commons area. “She helps with stress, with students who have anger issues, and she just offers students a moment of bliss,” Moore says.
Along with being compassionate, Penny is very smart. She knows over 50 commands. While she is not a service dog, Penny is trained to do things like “brace”, or stiffen up to act as a brace to help someone who may have fallen and needs help getting up.
Moore shares Penny with several classes at South, and Penny also hangs out in the commons area. “The kids love her, and she loves them back,” she says. It’s not uncommon for a student who is having a bad day to stop by for a hug, and a little “Penny time”.
Moore says that Penny has had a dramatic impact on a couple of students in particular. “There has been such a change in their behavior, and in their demeanor, since Penny arrived,” she says.
Moore credits the administration at South for being supportive of her efforts with Penny, particularly Principal Curtis Stevens. Penny does not cost the school anything. Moore pays for everything.
With students dismissed for the summer, Penny won’t have any classes to attend. But she won’t be lonely. Moore says that she plans to reach out and offer to share Penny’s love with area nursing homes.
(click photos to enlarge)
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