The Camelback High School Spartan Paws Club, which provides a service learning opportunity for students by working with service dogs in training, on Nov. 9 presented two service dogs to individuals who have served and sacrificed, through a program called Dogs For Our Brave.
Camelback hosted veterans Sebastiana Lopez, USAF, and Odin Ayala, US Army, Nov. 6-14, as they prepared to be partnered with their new service dogs, “Carter” and “Zulu,” who were trained by the high school students. Both veterans are amputees, and the Labrador retrievers will help improve overall daily function for their new partners. The school assembly, honoring the veterans and serving as a graduation ceremony for the service dogs in training, was held in the auditorium.
Founded by Maddie Souder, Camelback’s Montessori College Prep Class of 2015, and sponsored by Valerie Newman, an Exceptional Student Specialist (ESS) and English teacher, Spartan Paws has helped train multiple dogs in collaboration with Lifeline Assistance Dogs. Club members enhance the lives of people with disabilities by helping to socialize and train basic public access skills for service dogs in training.
Club members learn practical job skills related to the care of dogs as well as participate in animal-assisted therapy in Exceptional Student classrooms. Spartan Paws is an inclusion-based club and the only service dog training program that incorporates students with disabilities during the training process.
Spartan Paws holds weekly club meetings, and students have an opportunity to work with a variety of dogs that are in training. This year, up to five dogs may be on campus daily. Three other service dogs in training also graduated the Spartan Paws program on Nov. 9, and will move on to advance training in preparation for their placements. “Dobby,” “Zonko” and “Kilo” will be placed with their partners in the next few months.
The school also presented a Spartan Shield Award to Leigh Mitchell, the Community-Based Training aide who has puppy-raised two dogs, taking them home each night.