Wimberley, Texas — There is plenty of love and attention for the three Labrador retriever pups now at the front of Wimberley High School teacher, Tiffany Black’s Career Technical Education classroom.
While cuddly and cute, these pups, Zinger, Zesty and Zam, have a whole lot of class and homework too. Once they graduate from WHS, they will move on to advanced training to become full-fledged diabetic alert dogs.
The high school is partnering with Freedom Canines International (FCI) to offer this unique learning experience to WHS students.
“We just received our three pups and already our students have picked up some important techniques and tricks for training them. The puppies are very busy and bouncy, so our students really have to balance the right amount of attention they give them with the proper way to train them for their important service work,” said Black.
The WHS team selected three students from all that applied to be the handlers for the puppies, Timothy “Zane” Shoebroek, Cassidy Heineman, and Skylar Hammond.
They are all students in the CTE small animal management/equine science class and eager to make a difference through participating in this program.
“These puppies could save a life some day. They will be trained to alert their owner in case of a drop in blood sugar,” said Shoebroek, who is Zinger’s handler.
“I feel privileged to have a part in training Zing to make a difference in someone’s life,” he added.
All students who are in Black’s different classes throughout the week are learning how to help and handle the pups. FCI Instructor, Todd Kier, is working with them to make sure both pups and students adjust well to each other.
“We’re so glad to work with these bright, ambitious and service-minded students to train these pups. These young people are key to our mission of empowering people by providing them with greater independence and freedom,” said Kier.
The pups will be in the classroom until mid-March, then they will accompany puppy raisers to enter all areas of campus.
Pups in the classroom became a reality for Black, who wrote a grant to the Wimberley Education Foundation for funds to launch the initiative. The nearly $3,000 grant pays for the pup’s training and grooming equipment and toys.