Facility Dog, Dottie, Assists at The Winston School

Sandie and Dottie

At The Winston School in Del Mar, California, a middle school student with autism remains in his classroom for the entire duration of math class while occasionally petting the fluffy head of the Facility Dog (Dottie) in the room. His normal behavior would be frequently leaving the classroom or asking repeatedly to go to the bathroom. A high school student with Asperger's Syndrome calmly walks from the bus to his first class in the morning while holding Dottie's leash and walking beside her. He would normally resist verbally and physically, refusing to leave the bus and enter school grounds. A young boy gave a five-minute speech to his classmates, reportedly unable to focus on task for more than a minute, with Dottie by his side to his teachers' amazement. These are just a few examples of "everyday victories" and student progress that Dottie, a TLCAD Facility Dog, assists with at The Winston School.

In September 2013, four furry paws joined in the bustle of students walking the halls of The Winston School. Dottie makes her rounds to various classrooms and therapy sessions with her facilitator, Sandy Snodgrass, a parent of a Winston School student and full time volunteer. Sandy holds a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and focused her thesis on Animal Assisted Therapy. With the expertise of Sandy and members of The Winston School staff, Dottie performs cues and behaviors that serve to motivate, calm and increase the goal driven behavior of the student population. The Winston School is a small non-public school that serves 100 students with learning differences, including those on the autism spectrum.

By resting her head on a student's desk to increase their focus, or lying across the feet of a student to calm them during a counseling session, Dottie assists students by helping them meet their academic and social goals throughout the day. The unique needs of the student body, the creativity and passion of Sandy and Winston School staff and Dottie's training and skills present endless possibilities for improving the lives of these students with a TLCAD Facility Dog. Sandy states, "I never imagined the results of Animal Assisted Therapy could be this powerful. Dottie's daily calendar is full with scheduled appointments with students. I would rather be working with Dottie at The Winston School than anywhere else each day."