The newest staff member at Beiseker Community School is also the youngest, the easiest to get along with and even has the best hair!
'Asia' is a nearly three year old Black Lab; she is also what's called a 'facility dog,' something akin to a service animal, except she works with the entire school.
"Mary Pieterse started a project in one of her classes and she ended up getting our dog, Asia, from the National Service Dog Training Centre in Cambridge, Ontario " outlined Laura Gorr, who is also trained to work with the facility dog. "Mary is her primary handler and I'm her secondary handler."
Gorr told 99.5 Drum FM the dog makes life a lot easier for kids to deal with everything from hyperactivity to pre-exam jitters.
"Her role is just to be very calm, so sometimes if the kids are writing a test she could go in and it's just a little bit of a distraction, so they're not feeling quite so anxious about writing the test," she explained.
She notes one young girl with emotional issues visits Asia every morning and uses the dog to calm her down enough to learn her lessons.
"I anticipate that there will be more facility dogs to come," Gorr stated. "Because of our legislation it's going to be much easier for us to get facility dogs in such places as schools, but there's no training facilities in Alberta, so that's where the hangup is."
The cost to train and raise a dog like Asia is approximately $30,000 and is entirely born by the National Service Dog Training Centre, which is a non-profit organization. Pieterse and Gorr received a grant through the Family and Community Support Services program to pay for their training.
Asia is the first facility dog to be attached to a school in Alberta.