March 31, 2016—Auguste Rodin Bird, or “Auggie” as he’s affectionately been nicknamed, is the newest member of the Abram Lansing school family. At just nine weeks old, he’s also the youngest.
“It’s a boy!” exclaimed Principal Cliff Bird in a recent letter to parents.
The black Labrador retriever was carefully selected by local certified dog trainer Kathy Stevens and Principal Bird, who is his owner and primary handler, to become the service dog at Abram Lansing.
The pup is already attending school regularly to begin his training to learn socialization, commands, rules, parameters and proper behavior. At the same time, students and staff are learning appropriate commands, interactions, behavior and care for him.
“The goal is to establish a school-wide safe environment where Auggie is a part of the day-to-day learning community,” said Principal Bird. “He’s been visiting classrooms and getting to know the students already. He’s also been sleeping a lot!”
Auggie joins Rozie, a 17 month-old golden retriever who has been the service dog at Harmony Hill School for over a year. Principal Mark Perry, her owner and primary handler, has seen many positive changes and benefits to having Rozie in school every day.
The elementary schools’ Pets for Progress program supports students’ regulation of emotions and assists in stress management. The dogs also strengthen the commitment to the overall school community by bringing staff and students to work collaboratively to socialize and train the pups to become a part of the daily routines at school.
All handlers must spend time training with the Rozie and Auggie, and must remain with them at all times. Their primary handlers, Principal Perry and Principal Bird, are responsible for the veterinary expenses, monthly medication, food, and home care.
The Pets for Progress program is financially supported by CAP COM Federal Credit Union’s philanthropic entity, the Cap Com Cares Foundation, which awarded the district $2,900 last April to fund professional training and certification of the two dogs to become service dogs serving students at Harmony Hill and Abram Lansing. The grant fully covered the cost of Auggie, and offset the cost of supplies such as water dishes, crates, harnesses and beds for the dogs at the schools.