Returning from Thanksgiving break, FBCS staff Mary Jensen, and Hillary Dececchis announced to the school the arrival of our new school pet. In addition to 2 guinea pigs, a gerbil, and 3 fish, we now have a golden retriever dog. There was much excitement among the student body, as we all waited anxiously to find out what her name would be. Finally, the time arrived during lunch when our principle went up on stage. Almost theatrically, all the blasting sounds of conversation suddenly died down. We all stared in tense anticipation for what seemed like forever, before her voice echoed out the name: Avita, Vita for short. She emphasized the choice of Avita, which is Spanish for a bird, in honor of our namesake, Mr.
Forrest M. Bird. But her nickname, Vita, also represents the school and is Latin for life. A giddy round of applause erupted after the announcement, as we all celebrated the joyous news. This beautiful vanilla cookie coated puppy was now going to liven up our school’s environment, and we were enthralled. Everyone wanted to engulf her in a hug, however, the attention was overwhelming Vita, and thus the staff had to let her be visited by only one person at a time.
The staff has been careful incorporating her into the school’s main grounds, as they are still debating if she can handle the attention. But from a recent interaction with students during lunch and social periods, Vita seems in fairly good control of her energy level. When she was chosen, it was very important that she would be mildly-tempered, and that she would not get bored from the cultured atmosphere of school life. This is a tall order for a golden retriever,
which is a hyper breed of dog, yet Vita has grown accustomed to napping during school hours, which has been a great quality for a puppy.
The following months included various types of training, and in September of 2017, she shall undergo professional training in order to become a therapeutic dog. As of now, she has learned several commands, such as sit, down, wait, make eye-contact, etc. She is given either cheese or pieces of meat to assist her training. She bonds and trains with the principle, secretary, and her student
trainers, but also with a very special individual. This individual is Dr. Debbie Ford, an associate veterinarian at the Ponderay Veterinarian Clinic. Dr. Ford got her degree in Veterinarian Medicine in 1979 from Washington State University and has been focusing her career on animal behavior cases. She, along with a colleague, created a course at Washington State University called “The Behavior of Domestic Animals,” but she now focuses on curing the animal behavior cases of Ponderay, Idaho. She also believes in the positive impact that Vita has on people’s emotions. As a result, she donates her time to training Vita an hour a week, so Vita can become a Therapeutic dog. And what an effect Vita has in calming people, and lowering their stress levels. Her intuitive nature of people’s emotions has allowed her to accomplish her job at the school even before she knew what it was. She had only been at the school for mere hours when she rescued a student from an anxiety attack. What could have taken this person the whole day to recover from turned into a smooth and effective transition back into their class within the course of half an hour. Countless others can attribute their moods improving from Vita’s presence, myself included, as she helped me get through the stress of finals last trimester.
But what about the people who are not dog people at our school? It was considered when adopting her if she would negatively impact students if they were allergic to dogs, or merely disliked dogs. However, compared to the allergic threat of cats, dog allergies are far less common.
In addition, the majority of concrete floors in the school dampen the possibilities of someone having an allergic reaction to Vita. As for when she is shedding, her caretakers shave her fur if it gets overly excessive. But once again, this is not an issue for the majority of the school grounds, as the floors are concrete, and are mopped every night. Still, if a student dislikes Vita, they do not have to interact with her, as she is kept inside of the front office area the majority of the time. Vita’s instinctual understanding of people also allows her to know when someone does not like her, and she responds very maturely and lets them be.
She means the world to the school, and we are extremely thankful that she has become our dog. She has been with us through the rough and hard times, such as finals of last trimester, and hard due dates of this trimester. But she has also celebrated with us in our fun and carefree moments, like the weeks before the holidays, and social time on Fridays. Vita has transformed the atmosphere of our high school, and we can’t imagine it without her. She has especially made an impact on the Secretary, and the Principle. When I interviewed them, the Secretary described her relationship with Vita: “She sleeps under my stool, and I have gotten used to stepping over her, and I can’t imagine it without her. I’m a dog person, I like having a dog here.” The Principle, Mary Jensen, also had a very comforting moment with Vita, which she described as “one of those moments that make you feel all fuzzy inside.” She explained how the first time they were driving back from adopting her, and Vita laid her head on Mary’s shoulder, and in that moment, “I knew we had picked the right dog. Vita is our dog,” Mary concluded.
Her maturity as a toddler is truly admirable, as she has been able to reduce the amount of barking and distractions she does throughout the day. Her personality is also a gift for how young she is. Only 5 months old, she behaves like a faithful family dog that has been mellowed through her age. She truly is a sweetheart, and her love brings much joy to FBCS and her caretakers.