Paws for Warwick

By on March 20, 2019

Ephrata School District has Clutch, the School District of Lancaster has Otto, and Lampeter Strasburg School District has Maya, Eagle, and Gabby.

Soon the Warwick School District hopes to have its own facility dogs, thanks to funds from the Warwick Educational Foundation and grant money. At the Warwick School Board meeting on March 19, an agreement with Dog Sense LLC was approved by the board, for the Paws for Warwick program.

Wendy Jordan of Dog Sense will be working with trainers from Phoenix Assistance Dogs, which was founded by Linzey Zoccola, a 2003 Warwick High School graduate. Zoccola has her own assistance dog, and will be helping to select and train the dogs for Warwick.

Barbara Mobley, executive director of the Warwick Education Foundation, presented a check for $35,612 toward the program. The rest of the funds will come from grants.

The contract with Dog Sense of Lancaster states that the dog training business owned by Jordan will provide a total of seven dogs and training over the next two years. A flat fee of $22,850 will be charged, with a retainer of $11,425 at the start of the project. After that, a fee of $5,712.50 will be payable September 2019 or when the first dogs are ready to be placed, and $5,712.50 payable September 2020 or once all dogs are ready to be placed, whichever comes first.

It won’t be long before pups are padding their way through the halls of the Warwick School District, delighting children and doing what dogs do best: soothing the soul and giving unconditional love to everyone they meet.

The idea for having facility dogs at Warwick schools was conceived some five years ago. As it turns out, Warwick School District Superintendent April Hershey is a dog lover, with three rescue dogs of her own. It was a dream of hers to start a facility dog program at Warwick ever since she learned about programs at other schools. It seems that Warwick has lots of dog lovers, such as Director of Secondary Education Ryan Axe, Assistant Superintendent Melanie Calender, and many others.

In the wake of tragedies involving the deaths of three students in two separate incidents at the high school in fall of 2018, administrators saw the impact of having therapy dogs at the schools to help the students and staff deal with the trauma. Therapy dogs from KPETS, including Rollo, Kody and Truman, visited the schools in the past five months, giving consolation to grieving students and their teachers.

“When the dog comes into the room or walks down the hall, everyone wants to pet the dog and for a little while at least, things seem better. Dogs have a way of doing that,” said Dr. Axe. “We were able to see what a difference it made.”

Paws for Warwick
The experience of losing three students to tragedy provided the impetus to get Warwick’s facility dog program underway as soon as possible. The program is called Paws for Warwick.

“When we were told about the Paws for Warwick program, we wanted to be a part of it right away,” says Barbara Mobley of the Warwick Education Foundation, which funds various programs throughout the school district. “This is exactly the type of program we are here for.”

Funds from the Warwick Education Foundation will be used for the first three dogs in the program. Eventually, Axe hopes to have seven dogs that will be at all of the Warwick schools. The dogs will be at school all day, with their handlers, who are most often school psychologists and social workers. At night they go home with their owners, who might be the same as their handlers, or others who work at the school district.

(Left to right) Barbara Mobley of Warwick Education Foundation, Wendy Jordan with Wally, April Hershey, Linzey Zoccola, Ryan Axe, and Christine Hainley with Gabbana.

The funds for Paws for Warwick will go toward the purchase of each dog, training, food and veterinary care. They picked Dog Sense LLC of Lancaster to help select and train the dogs because they use dogs of all different sizes, breeds, and even rescue dogs. Warwick is hoping to have several dogs that are hypoallergenic, such as poodles and Labradoodles.

“They have to have the right temperament, and they work with the dogs to choose the ones that are best with children and have a calm demeanor,” notes Hershey. “Some kids are scared of big dogs, so we want some smaller dogs too.”

Axe explains that the difference between a therapy dog and a facility dog is that facility dogs are right at the schools. Like school employees, they report for work each day and make their rounds where they are needed. That might be visiting a student who has had a loss at home or is feeling sad. A facility dog might stop by to calm students before they take stressful exams or listen patiently while a first grader reads to the dog.

Warwick Educational Foundation received grant money at the Warwick School Board meeting on March 19. Sown are (left to right) Kyra Kramer, Carson Kramer, Ross Kramer, Michael Landis, Barbara Mobley, Ken Kauffman, April Hershey, and Grant Hummer.

“The dogs will be kept safe and not used in a dangerous situation. They will also have breaks and time to go for walks, take naps and be dogs,” says Hershey. Observing dogs at other schools in Lancaster County, Hershey and Axe have seen nothing but benefits for the students and faculty when dogs are a part of their everyday school day.

“We are very excited to get the ball rolling,” says Axe, noting that they hope to have the first one or two dogs ready for the start of the 2019-20 school year, with two additional dogs ready ready by the winter of the 2019-20 school year, and the remaining dogs ready by the start of the 2020-21 school year, for a total of seven dogs.

Even though the Warwick School District will have its own facility dogs, the district expects to use KPETS from time to time. The dogs from KPETS were crucial in helping to console the entire Warwick Strong community over the past five months, added Hershey.

To find out more about donating to the Paws for Warwick fund, check pawsforwarwick.com.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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