Pup Rally At Green Bank School
(Welcome to our Pup Rally….everyone excited? YESSSSSS!!!)
The students at Green Bank Elementary Middle School were very excited and ready to welcome Kasha, a 13-month-old female yellow Labrador at the Pup Rally held in her honor of December 13th. Kasha is the ninth therapy dog to be placed as part of West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice’s Friends with Paws initiative for the Communities in Schools program.
The Friends with Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s office, West Virginia Communities in Schools, or CIS, a non-profit organization and the West Virginia Dept of Education. The idea behind the program is to place therapy dogs in schools where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse or other at-risk situations, and who need a support animal.
Kasha was tested and trained by Ultimate Canine, a therapy dog training organization based in Indiana. After an extensive test to determine whether she had the right personality to be a therapy dog, she was the placed in an intensive training program before being certified as a therapy dog. Jil Mazellan, a therapy dog specialist with Ultimate Canine, introduced Kasha to the students.
“Kasha doesn’t know a lot of tricks, Kasha knows commands because she has a job to do,” said Mazellan. “You can tell them your secrets because they’re a dog, right? Does Kasha care if you can read really well?
Does Kasha really care if you struggle with reading?
No, but I’ll tell you what, Kasha loves to hear you read.”
Listening to children read is just one of the many skills Kasha will use to help students at the school, according to Jonathan Paul, the CIS Site Coordinator for Green Bank. He gives a little more background on the CIS program.
“We are put into the schools to help supply any need the student has, whether it’s tutoring, whether it’s I need a winter coat, school supplies or I just need to sit down and talk to someone,” said Paul. “I always say I’m the one who helps catch kids who are falling through the cracks in school.”
“Baby Dog, the [WV] Governor’s dog kinda wanted a program of his own so they presented the Friends with Paws group and are helping to place therapy dogs in CIS schools.”
Paul said the CIS program, an initiative of the Governor’s office, has expanded and is in about half of the counties in the state. Two schools in Pocahontas have a CIS program in place, Green Bank and Pocahontas County High School.
“The first 10 schools were chosen by the Governor’s office and I was told today that the Governor’s wife really has fallen in love with Green Bank Elementary. And she said if we give a dog to any school in the state, I want to make sure that Green Bank has a dog.”
Green Bank was supposed to have received their therapy dog last year. But that dog, a yellow lab named Jet, proved to be a little too rambunctious to be around small children. He was eventually placed with a high school. Paul said even though they had to wait a little longer to get Kasha, they are very happy to finally have a dog at the school.
“Kasha will be helping with therapy if a kid is upset,” he said. “I get a lot of kids in my office that are just upset and crying, and they’re disrupting the classroom, so they send them down to me and I help calm them down. Well, Kasha will now take over that kind of responsibility. She will also be part of our reading program, and spending some time in our special ed department.”
When not in the school, Kasha will primarily live with Green Bank school Principal Shana Alderman. Paul, Jennifer Chestnut and Ellie Bell are also being trained as handlers for Kasha. Although she’ll live with Alderman, Kasha is actually the property of the Green Bank school. Handlers may come and go, but Kasha will remain with the school for the rest of her life.
At the end of the rally, each student got their own picture of Kasha to keep and had a chance to greet her as they filed out of the assembly. Based on the smiles on the students faces, it’s evident that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.