Therapy Dog Coming to LHS


Angela Su, Staff Reporter

Have you ever been at school and felt overwhelmed with all the workload and stress that comes with a normal school day? Have you ever wished you could just escape that overwhelming feeling, at least just for a few moments?

 In the future, LHS counselor Brent Prasnikar’s room may just be the place to go. Prasnikar is currently training his 8 month-old French Bulldog puppy, Daphne, to become a therapy dog. He hopes that one day, he will be able to bring her to school. His goal is that Daphne will be helpful for students to find some comfort or happiness in the often fast-paced and stressful school environment. 

“I just think that a lot of people feel some joy when they see a dog and the dog feels joy when they see you and I think a happy, wiggly puppy will be so helpful in those moments,” Prasnikar said.

Often, people get confused by the differences between a service dog and a therapy dog. 

“A service dog is basically an extension of the Americans with Disabilities Act where a service dog would be considered the same as a wheelchair. It’s an extension of what the person needs to accommodate a disability,” Prasnikar said. “A therapy dog is purely like an emotional comfort support. They have very different purposes.” 

Unlike Rufus the service dog that Shannon McBride, art teacher, is currently training to become a service dog for somebody with a disability, Daphne will be used to help LHS students with their emotional wellbeing. 

Before Daphne can come to school, she has to go through the long training process of becoming certified as a therapy dog. 

“She [Daphne] took a six week class that was beginner puppy classes, then she took another series of six weeks of classes that were intermediate skills. We’re currently doing a six week class that’s on advanced skills,” Prasnikar said. Currently, Prasnikar is preparing Daphne for the Good Canine Citizens Test that is held by the American Kennel Club. Although this test doesn’t certify Daphne as a therapy dog, it is a huge milestone in the journey of becoming a therapy dog for Daphne.

“If we get through the advanced series that we’re in, she’ll pass the Canine Good Citizen Test, then there’s another six week course that’s purely therapy dog training,” Prasnikar said. “She’s got two big hurdles to go.”

While training to become a therapy dog, there are many skills that Daphne has learned that she will use while at LHS. 

“One of the skills she needs to learn is if she was with me right now, we would be able to walk up to you, have her [Daphne] just sit next to me while you and I interact and she doesn’t get to give attention to you until I give her the green light to go ahead and be friendly,” Prasnikar said.

However, Prasnikar also acknowledges that there are students who will not like Daphne’s presence. 

“Not everybody likes dogs. Some people are allergic, some people just don’t like dogs, they might be afraid. So I need to be respectful and appreciate that if they don’t want a dog’s help, then you wouldn’t even know she’s [Daphne] here.” Prasnikar said. “That’s the goal: she’s a support if it’s helpful, then otherwise no one would even know that she’s in the room.” 

Another skill Daphne has learned is when given the command stay; she will stay in the indicated spot until she is given the release command by Prasnikar. That way, when students need her, she can give them affection, but if they don’t, she will obediently stay in her crate underneath Prasnikar’s desk. 

In the end, Prasnikar hopes that through his love of dogs, he can be able to spread the happiness he gets from Daphne to the students at LHS: “I just want to bring the joy that I feel with my dog and share it with others. It’s just so beautiful if that’s what people like.”