Sign In

Canine Training Program

July 22, 2020

It took two years but Kate Peters has found her perfect match.

Peters, the 2012 Ohio Teacher of the Year, met her facility therapy dog Ember, a two-year-old black Labrador Retriever at Telling Tails in Fryeburg, Maine, on July 13 and the human-animal bond was instantaneous. Ember must have known Peters was going to be her forever human as she walked right over and gave her a big kiss.

Ember is the third dog that Assistance Canine Training Services has placed in the Toledo, Ohio, school system. She will be joining Peters daily at Whitmer High School supporting students and staff there as part of an animal-assisted therapy program.

According to Robin Crocker, A.C.T.S.’ head administrator, Ember will follow Brooke, who in 2017 joined Melanie Robinson (Sylvania, Ohio) to work at Monac Elementary School (Toledo), and Captain in 2018 with Stephanie Moore (Toledo) to work at Greenwood Elementary School (Toledo).

“Both dogs work full-time with their handlers who are school counselors,” she said. “Kate is an English teacher who lives by the motto she shares with her students, ‘Living a Life with Purpose, Living a Life of Love, Kindness Matters.’ She was Teacher of the Year in 2012 and nominated for Women Are Rad in 2020. She has a special connection with her students built through mutual respect, trust, and music.”

Peters expects to further connect with her students using animal-assisted therapy. “The entire school system is over the moon excited to meet Ember,” she said.

A.C.T.S. was started in Center Tuftonboro in 2007 and moved to the Mount Washington Valley in 2014. Since then, the volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit has graduated 30 teams.

Ember was ready for her new assignment, according to Crocker.

“She has been in final training for some time now and is ready to fulfill her destiny,” she said, smiling. “Her puppy raiser, Kelley Brown (of Fryeburg) raised Ember in her second-grade classroom at Molly Ockett School in Fryeburg. Her final training was done by Shelby Packard, who currently coordinates the A.C.T.S. College Puppy Raiser Program at UVM in Burlington, Vermont.”

As a facility therapy dog, Crocker explained that Ember will go to high school daily with Peters.

“She will attend sports events and other extra-curricular activities that Katie attends on a regular basis,” she said. “Facility therapy dogs work full time with their handlers. The A.C.T.S. training program prepares these dogs for the riggers of long days and the stress of the school environment.

Crocker added: “Ember will serve as an emotional aide to calm and comfort individual students with anxiety or trauma. She will help teachers make important connections with their students and serve in a motivational program for students that need assistance. Ember will work with individuals and large groups in a variety of programs designed to help students emotionally and educationally. Katie has a special gift with music and dance used to motivate, educate and connect with her students. She uses her talents to engage her students. Ember is learning some of her own dance moves, and we expect that Ember will be dancing right along with her.”

Peters said her colleagues recommended she apply for a dog through A.C.T.S., and she was willing to wait for the right dog to be ready for her.

Raising and training puppies during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the A.C.T.S. staff with some new challenges, but they and their four-legged partners have been making adjustments.

“We have used this time to reflect and consider our future and have several standing committees working on plans for growth and what that might look like,” Crocker said. “Classes for puppy raisers are back in session. They are split into a number of groups to keep classes small and maintain social distancing so things are definitely different in these new times, but we are moving forward regardless.”

She added: “All of the dogs have adjusted to the masks with little problem. And all our puppies are now out with full public access although we have restricted their ability to go to medical appointments, the hospital and to grocery stores for now. Otherwise, they are out working.”

Crocker said more puppies are on the horizon and A.C.T.S. is looking for a little help.

“We are desperately looking for new puppy raisers,” she said. “We have slots available for new puppies and for people who might prefer an older puppy. Our biggest wish is for more puppy raisers but we are also looking for soft crates so we can teach the puppies how to be good in soft crates as well as wire crates. We use primarily the 36” size.”

While puppy raisers usually make 18-month commitments to care for the young dogs, Crocker said A.C.T.S. is adding six-month puppy raising opportunities.

Crocker said the graduate dogs from A.C.T.S. are fully trained and placed at a cost of $10,000.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs At School

    Those who own a dog can attest to their ability to lift mood, improve stress and bring joy by simply being there, unanswering, seemingly all-knowing and always delighted to see you.  Therapy animals are known for their calm and comforting nature, giving people a way to relax, de-stress and interact with a loving pet.  They […]

    Read more

    Wonder Dog

    For those of us with dogs, we know they quickly become major parts of the family. You live for and care for just like one of your own children, and one dog right here in Oklahoma City is beating the odds, and helping others recover as a therapy dog, despite all of the issues he’s […]

    Read more

    Scott And Charlie

    Cherokee Middle School students may do a little more “doodling” second semester starting this month (January), but also will improve their attendance marks because of a special attraction at the school, courtesy of Principal Scott Aden. Aden, an effective, caring administrator, has acquired and will house and handle a young female Golden Doodle (Charlie) that […]

    Read more

    Hope For Veterans

    E5 Therapy opened in April with a different way to help veterans in therapy. They offer canine-assisted therapy along with talk therapy to veterans and veterans’ families in Solano County. Owner Matthew Decker is a licensed clinical social worker in Northern California, focused on helping veterans achieve their mental health goals. Along with his team, […]

    Read more