Who Let The Dogs Out?

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Marina Zakrajsek, Guidance News Columnist

I have always taken an interest in animals, and being a dog person myself, I was extremely intrigued seeing plenty of adorable dogs present at the high school. I had the opportunity to meet with Mrs. Miller, the Dean of Students, to discuss her dogs and how she intends to train them as therapy dogs. 

Therapy dogs are dogs trained to visit social environments, like hospitals and schools, to assist and encourage people who typically have learning disabilities. They differ from service dogs which are trained solely for the purpose of helping their handler perform specific tasks. A therapy dog is meant to be everyone’s pet. Gaining certification to become a therapy dog is an investment of time and energy. The dogs must pass a test from the TDI (Therapy Dogs International) demonstrating confidence and control, where dogs and handlers must meet strict testing requirements given by a certified examiner. 

The therapy dogs at Vestal High School are named Mica and Mojo, who belong to Miller. Moose is another dog you may see in the halls, a chocolate lab belonging to Athletic Director Josh Gannon. Moose is in training to become a therapy dog as well and is a great supporter of Vestal athletics. He comes to support Vestal sports games and has a “very big personality,” according to Miller. 

Therapy dogs have plenty of benefits such as lowering blood pressure, helping to reduce anxiety, and increasing endorphins and oxytocin levels. Miller wants to help people, especially with COVID being a stressful time. She has been an outstanding owner to the 20 dogs she has owned over the course of 45 years, most of them rescued. 

Recently, Miller had lost her previous dog. Soon after, trainer Anne Evans (located in North Carolina) had reached out to Miller in hopes of finding a home for an abandoned yellow lab. This lab is Mica! Shortly after taking in Mica, Miller lost her other previous dog and Mica had taken the loss very hard. Miller wanted to find a companion for Mica. When she found a young puppy that she said was in “very dirty conditions,” she drove to Pennsylvania to bring him home. Mojo then joined the roster of Miller’s lucky dogs.

 Miller references that Mojo “has a fabulous disposition” despite his challenges from his previous living conditions. “He is thriving and awesome.” The dogs obviously have made an impact on the school, with students and staff regularly visiting them. Miller recalled that not a day has gone by that someone has not asked about them. Even VHS principle Dawn Young, who did not have a particulier interest in animals is “falling in love with them.” 

I really enjoyed getting to talk with Miller and look forward to congratulating the dogs when their certification is official. Until then, the dogs are present at VHS and are always open to more company!