This is Chewie, a 7 month old Golden Doodle and Michelle Sandusky’s therapy dog in training. This is Sandusky’s second second therapy dog with her first now nearly retirement age. Therapy dogs cannot be certified until they reach one year old, and for Chewie, that will be next March.
Until then, Chewie is an assistant to Sandusky and goes where ever she does. Together, their main focuses are working on socialization and obedience. Besides being at Woodward, Chewie also does obedience training with Des Moines Obedience Club on a weekly basis. In March, Chewie will be tested by Therapy Dogs International. To be certified, Chewie will have to pass 13 tests that are administered in 2 phases. When complete, he will be able to go anywhere Sandusky does. The goal is that he will also be able to serve others including at the Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines.
Research has shown that individuals are able to stay calm and open up about difficult subjects when in the presence of an animal. It has also been show that progress happens more quickly. For this reason, Chewie has been a big hit at Woodward Academy among both staff and students.