LIBERTY, Mo. — We see service dogs everywhere nowadays.
Thanks to a veteran-minded group in Clay County, that includes high schools where service dogs are being trained to coexist with people in busy atmospheres.
Teenagers and service animals are learning from each other at Liberty High School. In a place where students learn together, a high school senior and a service animals are gaining knowledge together.
Liberty High senior Reggie Parks was chosen by school leadership to assist with a service dog training program, as sponsored by the nonprofit Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation. Every day, a playful Weimaraner puppy named Penny accompanies him everywhere, including home and classes.
It’s become commonplace for Reggie and Penny to be seen around campus, and the social interaction the pup receives prepares her to work with a veteran. The training program for dogs lasts for four months.
“She follows me. She’s like my little shadow,” Parks said Tuesday. “I just hope she gets to a good person, and she does really good. I hope she does a good job. I think she’ll be a good service dog.”
Penny, who was adopted by Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation, is only six months old, which isn’t quite old enough for independent service. However, dogs who are trained in the foundation’s program often go on to become therapy dogs or service animals to military veterans who need them.
“You see them partner with their dogs and go into places they’ve avoided for many many years,” Melissa Chesnut, a spokesperson for Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation, told FOX4. “As a puppy, we want her to be socialized around a lot of people. regardless of whether she becomes a service dog or therapy dog, she’ll be well-socialized after being around a lot of people.”
“It is a busy thoroughfare. Part of the process of bringing Penny in here is acclimation and teaching her to be around the environment where there are a lot of moving parts,” said April Adams, Liberty High School principal.
Parks said he`ll have Penny by his side until April, when she`ll be placed with a veteran in need of assistance. Parks plans to study special education in college, and having Penny as his partner has been a learning experience.
Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation plans to continue dog training in schools. The nonprofit also asked the Missouri Mavericks Hockey Club to adopt a puppy as well for a similar dog training program. Penny will have a special part in a school presentation on Friday.
The dog also has her own Instagram page, which you can see here.