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The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

The Student News Site of Millard West High School

The Catalyst

Well-rounded hound

Sophomore and service dog take on high school
Gabrielle Wardyn
Gabrielle Wardyn and Waffles pose for a picture after completing his autism awareness service dog training. The week-long assessment and training required a lot of physical and mental training that not all dogs qualify for. Now, Waffles is trained for both outside and inside school-related events. “I immediately saw a change in Waffles behavior,” Wardyn said. “Very alert and aware of his surroundings.”

When thinking of a cuddly companion, most dogs are busy running around the park or enjoying themselves with a bone, but autism alert service dog Waffles has a full-time job navigating the classrooms and hallways

With this being Waffle’s first full year in a high school, he and his owner, sophomore Gabrielle Wardyn, have made many adjustments to their day-to-day lives just weeks into the new school year. Whether it is helping her decompress after a stressful classroom day or keeping her on track in the halls, Waffles adheres to Wardyn from the first ring of the bell to the last.

“I have Waffles because I have balance issues and I get dizzy very easily so he helps me with mobility, but I also have autism, so I am extremely sensitive to my surroundings,” Wardyn said. “So lets say I am in a large crowd, he knows how to easily maneuver me out of that big crowd so I do not get too overwhelmed.”

Being such a well trained dog didn’t come so easily. When looking for a trainer, the Wardyn family came across Best of Omaha’s, United Paws Dog Training Co. that specializes in all types of service-related training. The company’s training shows their passion for animals, taking the chance to help their handlers.

The training process was extensive, before getting training, a consultation was held in order to make sure that Waffles was qualified to become a service dog. The consultation allowed United Paws to do a behavioral assessment to determine if he met the tasks needed for Wardyn’s disabilities. Waffles was tossed into situations including Wardyn “fainting” to see how he handled the possible situation.

According to the United Way Dog Training Co.,“during their training with us, we met with the school board to discuss what to expect when having a service dog attend school, and we were of course there every step of the way attending school and classes.”

Many steps were taken to manage the unusual situations of having a dog in the classroom. Loud noises and chimes were thrown into effect when training. Keeping cool in difficult situations was crucial to having such a substantial dog.

“The really, really cool thing about having a dog in the classroom like Waffles is that Gabby and Waffles really trained ahead of time,” English teacher Lisa Lukecart said. “The maturity in the classroom that they have supported not only Gabby, but helped other students adjust to the new year.”

Wardyn’s love and passion for showing others that she doesn’t let her disabilities define her is something that not many people can do, and is the reason Waffles can have the important title of a service dog.

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About the Contributor
Nathan Buroker, Staff Reporter
Nate is a senior and this is his second year on the CATalyst staff. In class, he enjoys writing reviews on new entertainment and doing broadcasts on school related events. Outside of school, Nate enjoys spending time with his friends, trying new restaurants, and working.

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