First off, before I launch into my opinion on the matter, thank you to everyone who read the discussion and to all of those who contributed comments to it. I enjoyed reading every one's opinions on the subject. It was interesting to see that no one really said that service dogs in training shouldn't be allowed to go to school. I was kind of hoping someone would because I would have loved to have heard a coherent argument against it. The only one I've ever had was not what I would call coherent.
That brings me to start in on my rant. The reason that this subject is near and dear to me is because when I was raising Freya, my school did not allow her to come with me and it almost meant that I had to stop raising entirely. Let me give you a little background first.
Freya was the only puppy that my father raised as well. Rocco and Hilly were in my name only within my household. From the time Freya was nine weeks old to about fourteen months old she went to work with my father. My father is a lecturer at the University in town. My high school campus also happened to be on the University's campus. So, if Freya was acting up and I had a free period I would walk over to his office and take her for walks and things like that. When Freya was about fourteen months old my dad was unable to take her to work anymore. His schedule got far too busy and it wouldn't have been fair to Freya who would have ended up sitting in the kennel in my dad's office for hours on end. So, we figured that since I was a senior that I would be thought responsible enough to take her to school with me and Freya could certainly handle it because she's awesome and that my school would allow this because it was known for being a great school. We were very wrong.
I approached my principal first through email explaining the situation and saying it would only be for three months at the most (I was spot on with her recall date) that this would need to happen. I explained her job and that my father's office was right on campus so during PE and if she was acting up I could put her in there for a while. His answer was a point blank no. Why? Because she was a dog.
So, I set up a meeting with him and my wonderful leader Mary (who as you know helped me continue to raise by co-raising Rocco with me). We sat down and explained that I basically had no where else for her to go during the day. He covered the basic concerns I have. Some kids might have allergies, she'd be too distracting to allow learning to go on, and that he didn't want any trouble with any parents. We explained that I brushed Freya once a day and she was bathed every other week (hey, she was a stinky puppy). And at one point Mary said something like, "Could you look at what she's doing now? This is exactly what she should be doing." I saw the surprise in his face. He had forgotten Freya was even there. Even though she was a model puppy and I pointed out that since everyone of my classmates (no seriously, there were only 71 seniors at the point) knew I was involved with GDB and knew how to behave around Freya so they wouldn't be distracted by her he still said no. By the end the only argument that he had was, "No pets." Yes, I did explain that she wasn't a pet.
Thankfully, my other leader Candie made it to where she could take Freya to work with her (have I mentioned I love my puppy group?). And all 71 of my classmates were disappointed Freya wouldn't be attending school and asked if I wanted them to start a petition.
Anyway, here are my views on the subject.
Yes, a service dog in training should be allowed to go to school as long as the puppy and handler are ready for the responsibility. If there is a student with an allergy then the student with the puppy should sit as far away from them as possible and keep their puppy properly groomed. I also have little sympathy for people who come up to me when I'm in a restaurant or something and tell me that I should leave because they are allergic to dogs. I usually ask them to have a little compassion and realise that my puppy is going to someone who cannot see (which I think trumps getting the sniffles for a while though I never say that out loud). But, as for students, I would try as hard as possible to be as accommodating as I could. As for fear issues, I think all the better for a service dog in training. I think we should educate the public better and make sure that they know that service dogs are NOT aggressive. If they were they would not have made it as service dogs. I've had people refuse to serve/help me because they were scared of my puppy. I don't get mad I just remind them that service dogs are not aggressive in any way and thank them for their time.
As for the puppy being a distraction issue, this is inevitable. Yes, the puppy will do something that will be a little distracting. They'll snore or shuffle or get up or something. They're puppies. This is to be expected and we can't do a darn thing about it. But claiming that they will be too distracting for learning to take place, I think, is underestimating the students just a tad. I also think that there are students in the classroom who are far more distracting than even an eight week old puppy could ever, ever be. Yet, we allow these distractions into our classrooms (I know, I know, law and everything, but it just doesn't seem fair). Perhaps have a dog in the class would teach them a few things about attention spans.
This is why an emergeny button is crucial. If a puppy is going to go to school then I think there needs to be an out. There needs to be a teacher's room with a kennel that the puppy can go to if the teacher doesn't have class or a parent that is willing to pick up the puppy if (s)he gets too upset.
I believe everyone is right when they say that the teacher has a lot to do with the success of the puppy. I remember I brought Zack to school once (don't even get me started on that) and when we were in English class he let out a loud snort. This was right after my teacher had asked a question that had apparently gone over our heads and instead of getting mad or flustered he said, "See? Zack agrees with me!" Crisis averted.
And trial run? Yes, I think if there is no obvious reason to say no (as in my case) but the principle is still unsure I think it would be the open minded thing to do. It would show that you care about your students which I did not feel when my principle just said no. If it doesn't work out then at least it was tried. If it does then you have another great thing to add to your school's reputation.
I also think this. Most high school students are running around and experimenting with drugs and alcohol and other such things. They're having sex for the first time (which I'm not saying I agree or disagree with as I think that's far too hefty a topic for my little blog) and letting their hormones control their bodies (which I will say I tried vehemently not to do as I wanted good grades and that didn't involve spending all of my time thinking about boys). Why would a school do anything but encourage a hobby that pretty much makes it impossible for you to do any of those things? Honestly, my principle almost single handedly ruined my hobby and if he did I don't know what I would have done. Probably become some drug addict sex maniac. Alright...that might be a little extreme, but you guys get what I'm trying to say.
As for the puppy I think that the puppy needs to be at least six months old to handle high school. I will firmly stand by my belief and say it to anyone that I think it is irresponsible to take a puppy younger than six months to high school. Not only because there is no way the puppy is going to be able to settle under six months for school which will not lead to success in anything but because it is a highly stressful environment. At six months they might be ready to handle it, but under that, it is a rare occurrence that there is a puppy who could handle that much stress and not have long lasting effects. Even at six months it should be approved by a higher power (in my case I think a CFR should do it until the puppy is ten months old and after that a leader).
Whether or not the student should be allowed to take the puppy to school full time is between leader, raiser, and puppy. I personally have no strong opinion on it. Obviously if the school allows the puppy then they need to be prepared for full time. But I think it's up to the raiser to tell what they can handle and what they can't from about junior year on. It's something that I'm dealing with and really just forming an opinion on right now. Pretty cool huh? *smile*
So here's how it all looked in my case. A responsible handler and a dog that was more than ready for it as she attended class with my father before. An emergency escape route in the form of a kennel in an office that was a five minute walk away. The entire senior class backing me up. I'm and still convinced to this day that he didn't allow if because he doesn't like dogs.
It turned out that the week before Freya's recall my dad couldn't take her and Candie ended up in a job transition so she couldn't take her and no one in my group could pick her up and drop her off so I ended up having to go to my principle and say basically that it was only one week and I was really out of options. The one teacher that I'm sure is the one reason I had to go through so much trouble was blown away one day when I got up out of my desk after a test and Freya followed me. He said, "I didn't think you had even brought her today." I could only smile and say, "That's what she's suppose to do. She's suppose to become invisible." Score. Freya and Erin - 1: The "Man" - 0
Those are my views and I'm standing by them.