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Wadsworth Schools Welcomes New Therapy Dog, Hank

In March, Wadsworth City Schools welcomed a new therapy dog handled by District Intervention Specialist, Sara Kopacko.

The district does not seek out these dogs, but a team of councilors in the district selects the dogs for themselves. The counselors included Kopacko, Mrs. Beal, and Mrs. Rhorbach. When the dogs are not helping around the schools, they stay with their respective owners.

Hank poses for a photo. Hank’s handler is Sara Kopack, Intervention Specialist. Photo courtesy of Sara Kopacko.

“So far in Wadsworth, we have developed our therapy dog team directly from dedicated staff who have decided to invest in their own pets and pursue therapy dog training and certification,” Kopacko said. “Therefore, each therapy dog the district currently has come from different breeders or organizations. In the same way, each staff member chooses and funds their own training with whichever organization they feel is the best fit.”

The trainers have to pass specific training to be a handler and register the dog as a therapy dog.

“All trainers, however, must be able to provide Canine Good Citizen training, testing, and certification as well as Therapy Dog training, testing, and certification,” Kopacko said.

Kopacko and her husband got Hank in 2022. Kopacko knew that she wanted Hank to become a therapy dog.

“For myself and the work that I do here in the district as well as my Husband who is a police officer and halfway through his graduate program to become a therapist,” Kopacko said. “Therefore, we signed up for training with Hank.”

Hank has completed training from Gold Star Dog Training, Basic Obedience Class, Advanced Obedience/Canine Good Citizen Training, Certification passing the Canine Good Citizen Test, Therapy Dog Introduction class, Internship with supervised therapy visits, and the passage of the Therapy Dog Certification Test.

“Not only was Hank tested but I was too as the handler who took him through the test. It was a team effort,” Kopacko said. “Hank is a registered therapy dog through The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc.”

Hank does not belong in a specific school building; he bounces around between all the schools.

“For now, Hank can serve district-wide because I am district-wide. However, I learned quickly that it would be best to condition Hank and build his endurance before serving district-wide,” Kopacko said.

Hank and Kopacko sit in a reading circle during literacy time at Grizzly Academy. Hank serves the entirety of Wadsworth City School District instead of one specific school. Photo courtesy of Sara Kopacko.

At the moment, Hank works a lot at Grizzly Academy.

“Hank comes to school with me on Tuesday mornings and we participate in the literacy lessons with the Grizzly Academy. The students read to Hank or can pet Hank while they read. Then they get to spend some time with him,” Kopack said. “Usually before or after literacy time I can have a student help me take him out to go potty and give him some water. It’s a great break for the students, allows me some time with them, and helps Hank to become more and more acquainted with the school and building.”

Kopacko gets the Grizzly Academy students acquainted with Hank by using an analogy.

“I have let the Grizzly Academy Students know that Hank is like a new student, and they need to help him learn how to behave appropriately at school. The students have taught Hank that it’s good to take breaks when you feel too wiggly or hyper and that sometimes even though we don’t want to come back inside after playing, we have to be responsible and complete our work,” Kopacko said. “I was walking with a student and Hank and Hank was very jumpy (on me), he had too much energy. The student and I were saying “Hank you can’t behave that way in the building.” I told the student that I was worried Hank would have a hard time behaving in school today. The student reassured me that the Grizzly Academy is the type of school to help with that – which was just the best moment.”

Kopacko believes that at the end of the day, Hank is still a dog who does dog things.

“While he isn’t at school, he is busy digging holes in the yard, stealing my shoes, and sneaking scraps of food from the table. He is also cuddling with my kids and playing with my husband,” Kopacko said. ‘He is barely two so he is still a puppy at heart, but he is a good boy who wants to please.”

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About the Contributor
Haley Reedy
Haley Reedy, Online Editor-in Chief
Haley has been on the staff for all four years of high school. She started out as a staff writer and wrote primarily news stories. Her junior year she was In-Depth Editor, during her time as editor she wrote stories about controversial issues around the school. Haley wants to go onto study journalism and eventually become a journalism advisor to student-run newspapers. Now as a senior, Haley runs The Bruin website as Online Editor-in-Chief. She controls what stories go up and when. Although Haley loves the printed edition of the paper, the use of algorithms and user interaction intrigues her.
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