Dog graduates, starts career as therapy dog


Bruce wears his graduation attire. He is now an official therapy dog.

Trinh Ha, Staff Writer

The school’s therapy dog graduated from Karma Dog Training to earn his certificate as an official Canine Good Citizen and counseling dog on October 19th. The dog, Bruce, completed his first six weeks training course and is now a certified therapy pet.

Bruce was born on a small farm in Leander, Texas where he was originally an outdoors dog, but animal control picked him up three times and he was put up for adoption. Two a half years ago, Marissa Rivera, the Ann Richards School’s Communities in Schools Specialist, adopted him and claimed him as her own.

“When I got him, he was a puppy two and a half years ago. It’s always been a goal of mine to get him certified as a therapy dog,” said Rivera. “As a therapist I thought it was something cool to offer and that it would make me unique as a therapist.”

Bruce has finished his five week training with Divine Canine, a non-profit organization that serves various communities in central Texas, and has spent the last five weekends spending about twenty hours total, working directly with clients.

“He allows for patients to feel at home and not in a mental institution,” said Rivera.

He has been learning new commands and his training is similar to etiquette training, teaching him how to behave in various situations.

“He definitely adapts well,” said Rivera. “When he’s working and doesn’t have his leash on he gets this confidence thing and he responds to things much better here [at the school].”

Bruce’s badge ceremony consisted of several final tasks such as being able to respond to commands without getting distracted by any treats or food, interacting with patients well, and a written test from his handler [Rivera.] Now graduated, Bruce will visit a settlement home for foster kids once a month to work with them.

“Numerous studies show that when you’re with a pet or just petting one, it lowers your blood pressure, lowers levels of cortisol [a stress neurochemical], and provides many physiological benefits,” said Rivera. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a dog, or even me when I’m with him. It somehow makes things feel safer and easier.”

Bruce has been with the Ann Richards school for about two months and has received positive comments from the students.

“Seeing him there makes me smile a little bit more because he’s just so cute,” said Angelic Almaraz, a senior at the Ann Richards School. “Maybe it’s the fact that he’s so tiny, or the way he trollops around the school that makes him so cute.”

Bruce  will start his career as an official therapy dog on October 20th.

In response to Bruce’s graduation Rivera said, “Animals have always been an important part of my life and the energy that they bring to an environment is pretty impactful and powerful.”