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Calm dog, calm kids

2 assistance dogs graduate from training to work in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam schools
Iris, who graduated from Pacific Assistance Dog training Sunday, hangs out with children at Scott Creek middle school in Coquitlam.

There’s more tail wagging going on in School District 43 than ever before with the introduction of two new therapy dogs in Tri-City middle schools.

Lennon, named after the famed Beatle, and Iris, graduated Sunday from the annual Pacific Assistance Dogs training program and, along with their handlers, will be helping to calm children and create a positive atmosphere at their schools.

PADS dogs have been a fixture at SD43 since 2011, when a duo were introduced to the board of education and the benefits of therapy dogs were explained.

Since then, dogs wearing the distinctive blue and yellow vests have been making friends with students at Centennial and Riverside secondary schools, Suwa’lkh, and Miller Park elementary school, to name a few.

Currently, Liege is with Antony Ciolfitto, principal at Centennial, and two more principals have dogs.

At Kwayhquitlum, principal Laurie Ebenal works with Lennon, who spends mornings visiting each classroom and participating in talking circles. Lennon also assists Ebenal with supervision at lunch and recess. The students like to sit with Lennon in Ebenal’s office and they also spend time with the pooch in the learning commons.

Lisa Rinke, principal at Scott Creek middle, says her PADS dog Iris is always ready for a couch cuddle when conversations in the office get difficult, and the dog has the ability to lower stress in a room of students taking a test.

“Iris can make a bad day so much better. In fact, most days, she is simply magical,” Rinke said.

Research has found that children's heart rates slow and blood pressure drops in the presence of a calm, friendly dog, an important consideration because many children suffer from anxiety.