When Ann Trojan first got her dog Gabe, the plan was for him to compete in Dock Diving, a sport where dogs jump into water and are judged by distance and/or height.
Gabe — a golden retriever — excelled at the sport, but found an even greater fondness for the people around him.
“Gabe is an attention hog,” Trojan said, laughing. “He loves pets, hugs and kisses.”
Upon noticing his penchant for human interaction, Trojan, a certified dog trainer, decided to begin the process so Gabe could be a therapy dog. She trained Gabe herself and received his certification through Pet Partners, a non-profit that educates and tests hopeful therapy dogs.
“The test itself is not for the faint of heart,” Trojan said. “It’s one hour with 20 skills tested.”
With the right expertise under his belt, Gabe will join Trojan at Boulevard Elementary in Gloversville, where she is a music teacher, in the fall. Therapy dogs aren’t new to the district as a whole, the high school has two and Kingsborough has one, Trojan said.
“I don’t think Boulevard has ever had one. Gabe could be the first,” she said.
Gabe will work with students as part of the new Core Knowledge Language Arts program. Students will be given the chance to read to Gabe, and each kid who does will receive a certificate.
Trojan will travel to other classrooms with Gabe as her own teaching schedule allows. During the 8:30 to 9 a.m. block, Trojan will bring the pup to a rotating array of classrooms and two students will be able to read to him for 15 minutes each. The reading to Gabe program is an Animal Assisted Activity that Trojan signed up for through Pet Partners.
“What I like about bringing Gabe in is it combines by three greatest passions,” Trojan said. “Just having Gabe in my classroom is the greatest benefit to myself. Secondly, the passion I have for dogs and the love and therapy they can provide to people, then my love for reading itself.”
Gabe will have breaks. Between reading sessions, he will have his own corner of Trojan’s classroom to unwind, aptly dubbed “Gabe’s Getaway.”
To start the year, Gabe will work mornings only. He will greet students as they arrive and help them navigate the school building, then Trojan will take him home during lunch.
Once he’s acclimated, the golden retriever will have Monday and Thursday afternoons off. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, he will be in the building all day.
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