A group of dogs from the Pratt Area Humane Society are going to go through a 15-week training period with a group of students from Stafford High School.
Students Brain Smith, Nakita Foos, Victoria Kocher and Zachary Tracy along with their teacher and project organizer Mark Cargill came to Pratt Thursday and spent part of the afternoon meeting the available dogs and making potential matches for the program.
The meeting was designed to select potential dogs so none were taken to Stafford. Once the choices are finalized, they dogs have to go through some preparation before they can leave the shelter and head to Stafford, said Cheryl Nystrom, PAHS assistant manager.
Cargill came up with the idea for the program and took it to the school board. They approved the program and the project was underway.
Students get no credit for participating in the program but they do get the experience of working with the dogs and preparing them as therapy dogs.
The project-based learning activity will provide a leaning opportunity for the students as well as the dogs.
The students will work with the dogs for 15 weeks with the goal of getting each dog trained to a level that they can be used as therapy dogs in a variety of settings, said Cargill, who is a science teacher at Stafford High School and an avid dog fan.
During the training sessions, the dogs will be trained in almost every room of the school for a wide variety of experiences.
The dogs will also travel to settings outside the classroom, like nursing homes, to see how they react to the different environments.
While it isn’t certain how the dogs will come through the training, Cargill said they would be better trained than when they started.
Students raised money and built interest in the program using social networking including a web page and Face Book.
Because of their fund raising efforts, the program will be done with no charge to the district.
Each student had his or her own expectations for the dogs in the project.
Smith said he was interested in the project because he thought it would be a good experience.
Foos likes dogs and the program would give her the opportunity to train a dog to help other people.
With family in the military, Kocher said this would be an opportunity to give back to them. She has a sister who works in the wounded warrior hospital and this would be a good thing to use there.
Tracy said he thought the school’s therapy dog Jerry was cool and liked the idea of the program.
Nytrom said even if a dog didn’t become a therapy dog, the training would help them get adopted if they came back.