PORTAGE, IND. — Kyle and Myers Elementary Schools in Portage have two new staff members with four paws each.
Juno and Darling are golden retrievers that will be visiting the schools every Friday for half of the school day. Both are certified service facility dogs who received training through the organization Canine Companions for Independence.
Handlers Sara Anderson and Kathy Horvath met through CCI, and the two decided to bring Darling and Juno into schools to work with students. Anderson, Darling’s handler, said she and Horvath, Juno’s handler, are excited to be spending time at Kyle and Myers elementaries.
The dogs will primarily work with the schools’ PASS program, which provides additional emotional support for students. The handlers will also be working with the School Advisers to incorporate Juno and Darling into Mind Up, a curriculum that helps students understand and manage their emotions. Anderson has training in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) curriculum and will be using Darling to help students who have been through traumatic experiences.
Darling, Juno, and their handlers begin each Friday at one of the elementary schools and travel to the other school for the afternoon. So far, the dogs have been helping students grow their literacy skills by sitting with students as they read.
Juno’s training as a hearing dog led her to her handler, Kathy Horvath, in 2016. Horvath, a retired webmaster with Indiana University Northwest, has a brother who had a service dog for 10 years. Kathy adopted Juno from the organization Canine Companions for Independence after her brother’s service dog passed away in 2018.
Anderson retired from PCES in 2015 but could tell that Darling was not ready to stop working. Darling then earned her therapy dog certification, and she and Horvath began visiting schools, hospitals, and nursing homes while conducting presentations for various clubs and groups in the area. The students and staff at each school are looking forward to their Fridays with Darling and Juno.