Who let the dogs out?


Ms. Sandra Gin

Rolly and Lola (Mr. Da Silva and Ms. Gin’s dogs) spend a lot of time cuddling in room 225

Saint George’s School is known for its high academic standards, competitive sports scene and strong community of Georgians. But behind the walls of Canada’s most prestigious prep school there is a doghouse! Dogs are allowed to come to school accompanied by a staff member. Teachers are  encouraged to bring their dogs to their offices. Are these dogs supporting learning, or are they a distraction?

When interviewed, Jordon Dielieux, grade 11 student, had this to say. “I love dogs, and I love it when a teacher brings their dog to school.”  Another student spoke enthusiastically about dogs. “Whenever I get stressed out on a test, dogs make me feel better and stuff”-Frank Pu, grade 11 student. Some studies have shown that having dogs in the classroom can improve memory. Tests among elementary school students show that dogs will improve attentiveness. When an animal is in the classroom, people will feel inspired to put on an example. Much like when a baby is present, students feel like they need to be on their best behavior. In schools like Yale Law School students are allowed to “check out” dogs from the library as a therapy dog.  Yale has documented that therapy dogs have helped people relieve stress.

However, not all students agree that canines have a place at St. George’s.  Allan Zha, grade 9 student, said that he has noticed the dogs at school but is doubtful  they could take off any pressure from the classroom. “Dogs are fun, but not for me; they can make me scared!”

There are at least eight dogs at Saint George’s, and each dog brings a different element to the school. My personal favorite is Red Rowdy more commonly known as Brown Bastion or Ona.  Ona is perhaps the calmest dog I have ever seen. During a long afternoon at the English wing I spent a solid half hour try to get a reaction out of her.  People have started calling me the dog whisperer of my day. I have a special gift with dogs, especially with riling up dogs. All my attempts at riling Ona were put to waste; she seemed to take no effect to my treatments. Dog lover Matthew Sy, grade 11, told me his own story of dogs in the school. “Well, you know, Stuart, I really love dogs, but that dog Ona really freaks me out.  She seems to be incredibly passive, it’s like nothing fazes her.”

Attending a private school can be sometimes stressful, particularly when  academic standards are so high. Whenever schools are presented new ways to relieve stress and increase happiness I feel that it should never be ignored.  Critics do suggest that having a dog causes too much distraction for certain people.  However, teachers make their decisions on dogs in school. Dogs are not being forced into classrooms. Teachers are always open to student feedback and dogs can always be removed from the building later down the road.  For now, however, St. George’s remains a school for boys and dogs.