By: Kate Gruetter
National/ World Editor
Los Gatos High School students spent the first Wednesday of the school year playing and de-stressing with service dogs from Canine Companions. The San Francisco-based non-profit brought 12 dogs with them to the front lawn, along with the Los Gatos Police Department who brought two additional puppies. Students adored the canines, who were the feature of many BeReals, photos, and selfies.
Unlike the Canine Companions’ service dogs, the purpose of the police puppies is to become therapy dogs. In the future, the department hopes to help destigmatize police dogs and combat perceptions about their stereotypical vicious nature.
The Los Gatos Youth Commission started planning the dogs’ visit in January, working through various permitting issues and making sure LGHS’s administration approved the event. Senior Sasha Balasingam defined the Youth Commission as “an awesome group of kids across Los Gatos in multiple high schools.” Balasingam explained that they “work once a month to plan and work on town events, problems, and solutions. We get to work on ordinances and plan events around town.” One of the commission’s most notable projects is the plastic ordinance, which aimed to reduce plastic usage at Los Gatos High School and the town.
The group thought it would be a great idea to bring the dogs to help students to relieve stress in a fun way, and it seemed to have worked. Junior Keya Mehta explained, “I saw flyers around campus and I told all my friends that we had to go. I even put it in my calendar to make sure I didn’t forget.” Mehta described the event “as a blast,” explaining that the adorable pups significantly improved her day.
Despite the dogs’ popularity with students on campus, Canine Companions focuses mostly on providing service dogs for people with disabilities, veterans, and professionals who work in a health care, education, or criminal justice. The non-profit has been growing at a fast rate since its establishment in 1975, boasting achievements like 7,108 graduate teams placed, 4,700 active volunteers nationwide, and 2,653 active graduate teams nationwide. The group hopes to become “the most recognized leader of the industry” by 2025. The company typically trains and uses Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, and mixes of both; the dogs are usually about two years old when they are matched with a person.
Though difficult and time-consuming to plan, it is clear that Dog Day was a huge success in not only helping students but also bringing awareness to the importance of service dogs across multiple communities The Los Gatos Youth Commission helped prove that canines truly are a man’s best friend.