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By BETH ZUMWALT
Although Chubbs only visits Pleasant Hill Schools occasionally, the 14-week Newfoundland pup is a big hit among students and staff.
“I only bring her in on occasion,” said Ron Edwards, principal, and owner of Chubbs. “Once she has gone through her AKC Good Citizen Training, she will be at the school more often and for longer periods of time.”
Still, as Edwards leads the dog down the hall on her leash, most every person they meet says “Hello Chubbs” or bends down for a quick pet of the pup.
Chubbs will receive formal emotional dog support training beginning the end of May. Edwards said the Good Citizen Training has the same criteria as the Therapy Dog International and Chubbs must pass the same test before receiving her certification. The dog will be trained in a variety of skills, especially obedience. Edwards purchased Chubbs and has applied for a grant to pay for the training.
“She is a very smart dog,” Edwards said. “At home, we have a board with cups on it and we put a treat under a cup and she can open it and get the treat.”
Chubbs, whose AKC name is Princess Layla Chewbacca, a nod to Edwards love of his granddaughter and Star Wars, will be at the training for six weeks. She will also be eligible to go back for weekly refresher courses, Chubbs has already helped at the school.
“We had a elementary school student who got extremely anxious during math,” Edwards said. “He got so upset he could rarely finish a test in one sitting. We had Chubbs set by him during his last math class and he finished the test and did very well on it. He petted her the whole time he was working on the test and she sat still for him.”
Chubbs joins a growing number of emotional support dogs in the county. Western Schools have one and a teacher there, Chris Simonson, has one from another school, that she frequently takes to class.
“So, they actually have two,” Edwards said. “I always wanted to do this and Curt Simonson is my mentor in a nationwide program for schools. He talked to me about it a lot.”
Edwards said he could have gone through a program that would assign a dog to the school, but they would have no choice of breed.
“It could be a poodle, a labrador, anything,” he said. “The dog is going to stay with me when it’s not in school and I’d always wanted a Newfoundland. They are called Gentle Giants for a reason. They are also called the Nanny of the Dog World.
Chubbs’ mother weighed 180 lbs and Chubbs appears on the way to equaling if not surpassing her in size.
Edwards said he searched AKC websites until he found the dog he wanted and was lucky enough to find it in Carbondale.
“I love bringing her to the school,” he said. “I love seeing all the smiles.”