Durwood enhances class experience
By Christin Runkle, Idaho Press Tribune
CALDWELL — In many ways, Durwood isn’t much different from the seventh-grade students he goes to class with at Thomas Jefferson Charter School. He sometimes has a hard time sitting still, he falls asleep in class and he gets distracted when visitors come into the classroom.
But Durwood isn’t a seventh-grader. The 16-month-old golden retriever/yellow Labrador mix, who’s in training to become a guide dog for a blind person, has attended Thomas Jefferson with Lisa Malhas, 13, several days a week since the winter of 2006.
Durwood left Tuesday for formal training at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Boring, Ore., but Lisa’s class threw him a going-away party on Monday. Far from being a distraction, seventh grade teacher Amy Pfaff said having Durwood in class has “kind of brought them together as a little family.”
“Our kids are really protective of him,” Pfaff said. “There’s never a moment when Durwood doesn’t have someone mothering over him.”
Having an animal in the classroom seemed to help students as individuals, as well. “He’s made school more enjoyable,” said Malhas’ classmate Adam Johnson, 13. “He’s kind of made me more responsible so I can do stuff like . . . train a dog and be good with my animals.”
Malhas has had to make sure her classmates know how to properly interact with Durwood — Guide Dogs for the Blind doesn’t allow guide dogs in training to eat from people’s hands, for instance. But controlling his behavior in class hasn’t been a problem for Malhas. Durwood has been trained to lie down when his family takes him places.
“He’s probably the calmest dog,” Malhas said. “He sits under my desk and sleeps.” Training Durwood has taught Malhas patience and respect. “It’s been a really good experience,” she said. “I’m really glad how he turned out through everything.”