When I arrived at Ottawa Technical Secondary on Donald Street in the east end school was just about to start. The young students were in a courtyard making sure their companions for the day had empty bladders before hitting the classroom.
These students are part of the Leash Leader program, the only one of its kind in Ottawa. This is the first year it's been offered. Teachers in special education and vocational training felt something was needed to engage students, make them want to attend class and improve their communication skills. Sarah Rush introduced the idea of using dogs.
16 kids are enrolled. Four days a week they are paired with a dog that belongs to a staff member. Together student and canine friend learn various skills.
26 students are enrolled in the Leash Leader program for next year. No word yet on whether the dogs will be back. After all, as kids will tell you, a full day at school can wear you out.