Luna has schooling ahead of her, just like any other student at Lynden Middle School. But the therapy dog in training may soon be officially working to calm fears and delight students across the building.
LMS counselor Laura Lupo is working to create a supportive environment at the school with the help of Luna, currently a 7-month-old Aussiedoodle, part Australian shepherd and part poodle.
Luna started her training by coming to school with Lupo as young as eight weeks old, an important step in getting her socialized, used to crowds, loud noises and plenty of reaching hands. Luna has already had her first graduation from Cedarwood Dog Training and is now in a 12-week off-leash program through Cedarwood. Along with meeting the requirements of being hypoallergenic, up to date on vaccinations, registered with the city and receiving a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, once Luna completes the off-leash program and reaches age 1, she can begin official therapy training.
All this work and training, though, will be worth it in the end, Lupo says. “The students have reacted wonderfully,” she says. “I have utilized Luna quite a bit with students with anxiety. She has worked with some of the students in the ELRC and it has been a great training tool for students, as well as for Luna.”
The dog is already learning to read body language and enjoys greeting students in the morning. “She often gives kisses, which puts a big smile on students’ faces,” Lupo says. Luna is already present at times in classrooms in small “Lessons with Luna” sessions. Lupo has Luna helping in five classrooms, as the counselor covers everything from character education and respecting differences to helping others, school success, socialization and leadership. Lupo leads a reading group with ELRC students where Luna serves as a “calming influence.”
Once fully trained, Lupo says she hopes to use Luna in other Lynden schools and facilities.
While Luna has set a solid framework of learning, the 7-month-old still has some education ahead, all under the excited watch of students at Lynden Middle School.