6th Grade Student Trains Guide Dogs While At School

Program Aimed At Socializing Future Guide Dogs For Blind People

A sixth-grade student at Endeavour Elementary school is training a guide dog on her campus.

It's a program for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and for sixth-grader Shannon Patterson, it's a responsibility she takes pride in.

"I think it's very important because think of the gift you're giving to somebody else. They can't see. This dog can be their sense of eyes and their friend and their guide. They can feel independent and they don't have to bother somebody else to help them," said Patterson.

Patterson takes 6-month-old Kipling, a golden Lab, to school on select days so he can be trained to distinguish the various sights and sounds he is surrounded by. Patterson is volunteering her time to raise the puppy, housebreak him and teach him to be a good canine citizen.

"It's important to me to socialize him around school and for people to understand what I'm doing. I think it's a great educational program because it's teaching other students to ask before you pet the dog, why the dog is with me and our mission," said Patterson.

While other school districts in Kern County do not allow training service dogs on their campus, Endeavour Elementary School principal Deanna Clarke is a staunch supporter of what Patterson is doing and feels it is a living lesson for her students.

"I would encourage schools to really learn about it because so many times we don't take the time to become educated on the pros of what that can do for our schools and students. So I would encourage them to be open to that and look into that," said Clarke.

This is the third dog Patterson has trained. She hopes to continue through high school, but those hopes may be dashed.

"I am hoping Frontier High School changes their policies, because if they don't, I won't be able to continue when I go there in a few years," said Patterson.

Organizers said programs like this are good for students like Patterson, to teach them responsibility. Educators said it's good to have a guide dog on campus because it teaches students about people with special needs.

"I think we work really hard to teach students that there are others who have special needs. Everyone is unique. We should appreciate those differences and help each other and support each other. We have many students with disabilities at our school," said Clarke.

Kipling will be Patterson's constant companion for a year and half while he's being trained. Then, she will return him, something that is difficult for her to do.

"You go through nights crying. It's hard, but I have to think what we are doing for somebody else, how much somebody is going to appreciate their dog after I am finished training him," said Patterson.

When Kipling is 14 to 18 months old, he will return to Guide Dogs for formal guidework training. Then, the dog will be matched with a blind student enrolled at the school.

For more information, contact Guide Dogs For The Blind at www.guidedogs.com.

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