Meet Chief. He is a 9-year-old certified therapy dog that spends two of his days each week with students in the Geometry in Construction class at Rapid City High School. Chief’s Dad, Mr. Hauck, teaches the class along with Jeff Nelsen. According to Hauck, Chief’s mere presence in the classroom has helped otherwise distracted students, become engaged. “He’s very personable,” Hauck said.
Chief is popular on campus. If Chief takes a regularly scheduled work day off, Hauck says students immediately ask where he is. When he replies and says Chief is at home, students are disappointed … or as one teen put it, “that’s lame!”
Chief went through a fairly intense program to earn his therapy dog certification in California. “If he disobeyed even one command during the certification process, he would have been eliminated as a therapy dog candidate,” Hauck said. Hauck taught in California before returning to his home in South Dakota to teach. When he approached Rapid City High School’s former principal Deb Steele about bringing Chief on board, she was hesitant, but after a little convincing and the presentation of Chief’s very own recommendation letter (from another school principal), Chief was allowed to attend school. He has been a hit ever since.
While the District has a policy that prohibit pets on campus, Chief’s status as a certified therapy dog combined with Hauck’s experience as a handler and educator, makes Chief an exception to the rule. Many districts throughout the country have various therapy dog programs that are integrated into the school setting. Our State’s largest district, Sioux Falls School District, partners with the Sioux Empire Therapy Dog International chapter. Their therapy dogs are brought in during crises to help students cope.
This is the last year Rapid City High School students will be able to spend time with Chief on a regular basis. Mr. Hauck is retiring this year, but Chief’s career as a therapy dog is far from over. Hauck and Chief plan to offer their services to first responders and others who could use the assistance of a calm, loving and perceptive pooch. Hauck says, in the future, they will still make time to come visit staff and students at Rapid City High School.