DEL MAR — Dottie, a standard poodle and facility dog at The Winston School, doesn’t take a day off.
When her owner Sandy Snodgrass and her family were evacuated from their San Elijo Hills home during the Cocos fire, however, Dottie was unable to report to the school for her job where she logs 30 hours a week as a therapy dog.
“What can I say? Dottie likes to work and she gets anxious when she can’t,” said Snodgrass. When she and her family were able to return to their San Marcos home, Snodgrass was so grateful to the firefighters, she took them a care package of food. Dottie tagged along and went right to work offering solace and comfort to the fatigued firemen who were temporarily camped at Double Peak Park.
“She’s intuitive and she just senses what people need,” Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass, a parent volunteer whose son attends the school, brings Dottie to the campus where her job is to relax and calm students enabling them to focus on their studies.
While the tall black poodle might come across as a school mascot, Winston students know she’s all about work.
“Dottie isn’t a pet; she’s a service dog with social and academic goals and the kids respect that,” said Snodgrass, who has a master’s degree in rehabilitation therapy and wrote her thesis on the role of dogs in therapy.
Certified by Assistance Dogs International, Dottie is in her first year of service as a facility dog with the school where her presence is being tracked and measured for the influence she is having on student success.
The school is working to secure grant funding to expand the program and bring more therapy dogs into the learning environment.