ANNE & PEONY

When I arrived at my new elementary school two years ago, lo and behold, one of our part time teachers, Liz, had a PADS puppy, Cadence, by her side. I knew about PADS from my puppy sitter friend, Gisela. But this was new… a puppy at school? How would that work?! The answer was apparent. Cadence made a big difference in the lives of the calming students in a busy Grade 1 classroom. One day, Liz and I had a visit from a young girl who would attend Kindergarten the following year. This child has Rhett’s Syndrome and doesn’t speak, communicate or walk without assistance. When this little girl saw Cadence for the first time, she smiled and her eyes lit up with joy. It was for this little girl I decided to become a puppy raiser.

My life as a vice- principal and teacher of students with special needs is hectic. I worried that raising a puppy would be problematic. My test was to do a 2 month trial with Amber ll from the yellow litter and see how it went. Without question, a puppy at school works! Enter Peony, a golden retriever puppy from the Bush Litter who joined our staff January 2016.

Students, parents, and staff fell in love with Miss P from day one, and the benefits she brings to our school are countless. Peony begins the day greeting kids and supporting the littlest ones who suffer anxiety. Parents tell me it’s easy to get their child to come to school if they have a puppy to visit in the morning! Peony has many jobs. She reads with learning disabled students in the Learning Assistance Centre, she’s the main attraction in a social skills support group, she helps students with non- verbal autism, and comforts students dealing with trauma and grief. Peony even inspired a kid organized ‘nature club’ and now intermediate students regularly clean the playground ‘just for her’. Peony is adored by staff and sometimes provides stress relief for our dedicated teachers. Miss P is busy and always in demand. She visited one of our students at Canuck Place and also at Ronald MacDonald House. She even received an invitation to a student birthday party! Peony helps us with academics as well. Our students have been tracking Peony’s age, her weight, and her length.

Above all, Peony unites our school community in the most lovely and authentic way, teaching us compassion, care, and empathy while having a ton of fun along the way. Having a puppy at school works! Peony has brought such great joy not only at school, but also at home. Daily walks and weekend hikes mean exercise for me!

I am so glad to be a part of PADS and feel lucky to raise this beautiful puppy. Here’s to you, Sweet P.

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