Tails were wagging at Hope View Elementary School on Thursday.
These dogs, however, were on their best behavior — or at least trying to be.
Five service-dogs-in-training and their handlers from the Guide Dogs of America Orange County chapter strolled around the Huntington Beach campus as part of an exercise socializing them to noisy environments and children.
One of the dogs, an 8-month-old black Labrador named Luka, essentially has lived in Holly Sjogren’s fifth-grade classroom since September during the day and at her home overnight. Sjogren’s classroom is prepped for Luka, who has his own gated pen dubbed “Luka’s Lair.”
Luka, Hope View’s unofficial mascot, started there as a pup and has grown much in the months since.
“He pretty much sleeps all day,” Sjogren said.
“He’s a really good reader, though,” joked Hope View Principal Paul Kraft. “Not quite a fifth-grade level, but he’s getting there.”
Hope View students sometimes get to play and interact with Luka as a reward for positive behavior.
Throughout the morning, the five dogs and their handlers went onto the playground, and from classroom to classroom, showing the students the dogs, who may one day become guides for the blind. They undergo a 6-month training process for that task — aka “puppy college” — once they’re 18 months old, said Tammy New, area leader for Guide Dogs of America.
Sjogren explained to the throngs of curious students how the dogs are learning to behave.
“Kinda like how you guys have to always practice your good behavior,” she told the children.
The students also learned how to pet a guide dog, but only with permission from the owner, as the dogs, who wear special vests, are working.
New said dogs who sometimes don’t make the cut to help the blind may find other jobs, such as with law enforcement or fire departments.
Hope View is currently the only Ocean View School District campus to host a training service dog.