MAHOPAC FALLS, N.Y. - The Mahopac High School Academy recently welcomed Carlos, a black Labrador retriever, as its newest team member. The dog is an integral part of the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program at the Academy.
With the job title “comfort dog,” Carlos can provide support in the classroom, in counseling, or just being seen wagging his tail in the hallway or lying under a desk in a classroom.
“Having Carlos part of the Academy has fundamentally changed the learning atmosphere for students, not only in the Academy but throughout all of Mahopac High School,” said Dr. Greg Stowell, assistant superintendent for pupil personnel and educational services.
In partnership with Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, Christine Nolan, special education teacher at Mahopac Academy, and her family have fostered Carlos for more than three years. He’s an esteemed stud and has produced 70 puppies.
Nolan introduced Carlos to the Academy a few weeks ago after waivers were distributed informing parents that the dog will be on school grounds. Students were also given an orientation on the role of Carlos in their classroom.
“His first week on the job, students just brightened up,” Nolan said. “One student, who rarely speaks, immediately smiled and chatted with Carlos as soon as they met.”
Bringing Carlos to the classroom was a request from students and a combined effort of Stowell; Dr. Catherine Sweeney, administrator for secondary special education and the Academy teaching staff.
“The students asked us for a dog in the classroom a year or two ago,” Stowell said. “Dr. Sweeney researched possible grants and I looked into options, too. We were having issues securing the right dog that met our students’ needs and learning culture. Mrs. Nolan brought up the idea of trying out Carlos in the classroom, which turned out to be a perfect fit.”
Article courtesy of Mahopac School District