Four years ago, when Kim started in the Canines in the Classroom (CIC) program, she was worried that she wasn’t going to make it to graduation. Dropping out of school was starting to be a likely option. She had battled anxiety and depression. In Kim’s own words ‘COPE in a way, saved my life. I will always be thankful for the CIC program. COPE doesn’t just help people with mobility issues; it helps everyone who meets the dogs.’ COPE had a chance to catch up with Kim and this is what she had to say.
“In your last year of high school, you get sick of hearing the same question over and over again. It becomes that dreaded moment when someone asks ‘What do you plan to do when you finish high school? I loved being asked that dreaded question. For once in my life, I had the answer that so many were searching for. If you asked me some days I wanted to own a kennel, other days I wanted to be a dog groomer. All I knew is that I wanted to work with dogs and CIC gave me the opportunity to realize that. It has been two years since I have graduated from high school. Since then I have gained fulltime employment at a kennel, have rescued two beautiful dogs and still work with COPE. The CIC program helped me immensely and I want to pay it forward. This coming fall I will be going to Georgian College to become a Child and Youth Worker. Once I graduate, I want to work with kids who are struggling with mental health problems and teach them to work with dogs as part of their therapy. Training dogs give you the best sense of accomplishment and makes you realize you are worth so much more than you think. My experience with CIC and the COPE dogs means everything to me and has given me a chance at a great life.”
UNLEASHING POTENTIAL: STEFAN
In June of his Grade 8 year, Stefan Meade came to Nantyr to see his new high school and meet his future teacher. He had an Educational Assistant with him who had helped him all through his elementary education.
That September he began working in the COPE class, learning to train his first dog, Charity. When he took on the challenge of this very energetic pup, Stefan proved to have both a natural ability to work with dogs, and quiet but commanding leadership.
As Stefan gained experience in his work with dogs, we started to see his confidence develop, and come through in other aspects of his learning. His literacy skills were improving and he was taking risks that he wouldn’t have thought he could manage in the past.
The final proof of Stefan’s growth came when he began a co-op placement at an elementary school in the area. This student who had always needed help, was going out into his community to help others. He walked his COPE dog, Big Mac, over to the school to help support another young student. And he made a difference. This year, Stefan will graduate from high school with a certificate of accomplishment. What an accomplishment it has been.
JULIA ENCOUNTERS CONFIDENCE
My Name is Julia and I am a grade ten student. I choose to be in the COPE Canines in the Classroom Program, not only because I get to play with an adorable COPE dog every day but because, while training my dog, I am helping them to become one more step closer to being able to help someone in need.
Being in this class has helped me develop confidence in myself by giving me the responsibility of training a dog. Knowing I have the ability to be a leader has given me a very big confidence boost. I could not thank COPE and everyone in it enough for everything they have done for me. I have made amazing bonds with not only the dogs but the teachers as well. I have also made so many friends with the other students and I am so grateful that we have met.
Being in COPE also has helped me deal with the stressful, sad and hard time life throws at all of us. I didn’t think that COPE would impact me and my life as much as it has, and I am incredibly thankful that I decided to take part in the CIC program. One thing for sure – I would not be where I am today if it was not for COPE!
JORDAN, GOING FORWARD…
COPE Service Dogs’ Canines in the Classroom program has given me leadership and workplace skills as well as patience. This will definitely help me with a future job or career.
I have become a great student trainer, a leader and a great ambassador. I have taught the dog how to act around people and other animals. In a ‘Dog World’ you have to be a solid leader to keep the dogs in control. It is always great to help out with the dogs!
WHEN THE WORLD MAKES YOU MAD, THERE IS COPE – MERCEDES
I’m less aggressive, [and have] lost a lot of anger… COPE has made me open my eyes to reality and has helped me want to make friends. I’m usually very mad and upset but when I go in to the COPE dog class I feel relieved and there’s nothing to worry about. Flare (but I call her Flare bear), she’s one of my favorite animals. She can take me as I am and not as other people want me to be; she can listen to me when I’m upset and can make me happy by just the way she…puts her forehead right where mine is.
I love her and she’s my COPE dog. I honestly don’t know what I will do when I have to leave her in grade 10, but COPE has also made me get up every morning to just come to school and I can’t wait till the time I go to that class.
LIFE OPENS UP – ERIN
When Erin came to Nantyr in Grade 9 and began her first COPE class, she had never had much success or joy at school. Erin loved animals however, and was game to learn how to train a dog. She was a little worried, as her balance was not the best, and moving backwards was something she found difficult. Even the simple tasks she needed to learn at the beginning were very challenging for her and progress was slow.
But Erin persisted. She began to feel important when she was given accolades for the very thorough grooming job she did with Buddy in each training session.
Three years later Erin takes her job of training COPE dogs very seriously. Her understanding of animal behavior has become quite extensive and she is willing to share her knowledge with her teachers and classmates. Erin has found a purpose, efficiently managing her dog and mentoring new students just beginning their journey.
BECOMING A LEADER – CAITLYN
My COPE teacher helped me take leadership opportunities. She helped me feel confident that I could do anything and that I was more of a leader than I thought I ever was. I also learned that a leader does not have to be a loud leader but that to be the best leader, silence can be more effective in some situations. I have an easier time calming myself down and know when to walk away from a debate without getting carried away. I know when enough is enough and I respect others for stepping away when they get overwhelmed. I am not so quick to judge or be offended by someone.
The COPE program has made me more aware of diversity. It really is true that you should not judge a book by its cover. Disabilities and differences are not always seen with the eye.