Classroom pooch rests up for guide-dog school |

Classroom pooch rests up for guide-dog school

Above all else, students in Amy Arrington’s class have learned one thing about the newest addition to their classroom: Douglas likes to sleep.

Douglas, an 11-week-old yellow Labrador retriever, was introduced to Arrington’s students this week at St. Theresa Catholic School and represents an 18-month class project of training a potential Seeing Eye dog so he can be accepted into Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael.

Douglas was picked up by Arrington on Dec. 30 and accepted into her already busy household of two dogs, one cat and many fish. On Douglas’ first day of class, Arrington said the puppy was overwhelmed by swarms of children and constant attention.

Douglas seems comfortable in his surroundings.

“When the students came he ran into his kennel for 10 minutes, then went to sleep until noon,” Arrington said. “He loves the kids but I think he knows they have more energy than he does.”

Arrington picked up Douglas from the San Rafael school after an inspection by officials in Carson City. The representatives checked her house, fence and other surroundings. Arrington said the experience was like adopting a child.

The teacher is trying to socialize Douglas to get him used to people. At her house he can play. At school, he works.

“We’re trying to teach him the basic commands like sit, stay, that’s enough,” said sixth-grader Katie Alvord. “When he has to ‘go’ we tell him to do his business.”

The students can’t use the word “no” because it doesn’t train Douglas correctly. If a mistake is made, a short tug on the leash is given along with a correcting phrase.

Sixth-grader Andy Beem and twin sister Joanna were able to baby-sit Douglas for about an hour one day at their house. Andy enjoys the project and can see the future benefits.

“If blind people don’t have the dog, they can’t see and they’ll have to buy sticks,” Andy said. “It gives them a nice friend.”

Joanna was taking pictures with Douglas when she was babysitting him. During their time together, Joanna was trying to teach the puppy to go upstairs.

“He was staying in the living room,” she said. “He pooped once on the hardwood floor.”

Eighth-grader Zach Kroph likes the addition of Douglas, even though seeing the puppy during class is difficult from his desk in the front corner of the room.

“He’s pretty cute,” Zach said. “We have a lot of hard work in front of us but it’ll be a fun challenge.

“I haven’t had the chance to become friends with him. He’s sleeping a lot,” he added.

Arrington joined the Carson City Guide Dog Club in July, learned about training and got ready for her own adoption. She takes her newest addition around wherever she goes, such as restaurants and grocery stores.

Arrington said the community has been accepting of Douglas, except for one fast-food restaurant. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Seeing Eye dogs are allowed in public places, including eateries.

After the 18-month period with Arrington, Douglas will go to San Rafael for a nine-phase training period. Training begins with a physical and leisurely walks on campus. Then dogs are given directional demands such as “left” and “right” and walks in a mall.

The end of training includes walks in urban areas such as San Francisco, learning to board and ride escalators and guide work with the instructor wearing a blindfold.

Arrington said the San Rafael facility fires weapons so the dog won’t be gun-shy. They also send the dog through a field filled with pigeons so it can withstand distractions.

Distractions were bountiful Thursday as a group of students surrounded and cooed over Douglas. The dog didn’t seem to bat an eye.

“I didn’t know dogs could be so wonderful when they’re young because sometimes the dogs I’ve met aren’t that wonderful,” Andy Beem said. “We have a cat named Powder Paws because her paws are white and she likes flour but I wish I had a dog like Douglas. But I’d name him Rover because I think it’s a good name.”

— Contact William Ferchland at

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