Walker ES implements first campus comfort dog in Texas
Walker Elementary School third grade students Shane Rogers, left, and Nathan Espinoza, right, read to Skye, the first full-time campus comfort dog in Texas on Oct. 21. Comfort dogs like Skye help assist school administrators, counselors, teachers and other staff members to foster a safe and effective environment for students to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.
Nov. 2, 2021—Walker Elementary School is the first school in Texas to welcome a full-time comfort dog on campus.
Skye, a two-year-old golden retriever, was placed and trained by Interquest C.A.R.E.S. (Comfort, Assist, Reassure, Encourage, Support), an organization that provides comfort and counseling assistant dogs to school campuses. Comfort dogs like Skye help assist school administrators, counselors, teachers and other staff members to foster a safe and effective environment for students to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.
Sarah Taylor, Walker Elementary School counselor and Skye’s official handler, speaks with two Walker fourth grade students while Skye visits their class on Oct. 29. Taylor and Skye work as a team to help serve Walker students and staff through classroom visits, group sessions or one-on-one visits.
“We’re super pumped about having a comfort dog at one of our campuses,” said Franklin Sampson, director of guidance and counseling. “This will be the first year that we’ll actually have the opportunity to have what was formally called a therapy dog, or the new word for it is a comfort dog. Usually, you see comfort dogs more at the high school or middle school level, but we saw a need at the elementary level. CFISD has always led the way and this is another prime example of how we’ll do just that.”
Sarah Taylor, Walker counselor, completed her K9 good citizen and comfort dog certification training through Interquest C.A.R.E.S. to become Skye’s official handler. Taylor and Skye will work together as a team to help serve Walker staff and students.
“Having Skye on campus has already had more of a benefit than we could have even imagined,” Taylor said. “For example, a fifth grade student was learning how to pet Skye during our training and the student said ‘The first time I met Skye I was sad, but after spending a few minutes with her I was happy.’ That’s exactly why Skye is here: to help lift the mood and help us do what we’re here to do.”
Walker kindergarten student Violet Miller pets Skye during recess on Oct. 21. In addition to working with Taylor to accomplish certain goals, Skye helps serve as an incentive for students to remain on task, complete work and as a reward for good behavior.
Before a dog is placed at a campus, trainers must see if a dog enjoys the company of people, doesn’t have a problem meeting strangers and has a neutral reaction to school-related activities and sounds, among other things. Training comfort dogs take up to 18 months before a dog is ready to be placed at a campus.
“Skye is a celebrity here,” said Kimberly Dameron, Walker principal. “My favorite thing is seeing the kids react to Skye when they’re getting off the bus. You can see it in their shoulders and their faces, once they turn around to see Skye is sitting there to greet them, they all just kind of change their mood immediately.”
CFISD is looking to place comfort dogs at other campuses around the district as needs arise. To learn more about Skye and her training, visit the Interquest C.A.R.E.S. website for more information.