Surf the facility dog. Courtesy photo
Surf the facility dog. Courtesy photo
A group of St. John Vianney High School students recently used what they learned in a dual enrollment psychology class to lend a helping hand to their teacher’s four-legged assistant.

The Holmdel high-schoolers completed a training plan for Surf, a facility dog, in teacher Melissa Boege’s class to learn new commands to minister to children and families who have suffered sexual abuse.

“I am so appreciative for SJVHS to embrace Surf as part of the school community,” Boege said. Surf accompanied the teachers to her psychology class at the high school, one of a number in the school’s dual enrollment program with Brookdale Community College. The class covers topics such as neuroscience, sensation and perception, learning, memory, consciousness, thinking, language and intelligence.

In addition to teaching at SJVHS, Boege works as a therapist at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, in its Red Bank-based Family Growth Program. The program serves families and children who have experienced trauma and sexual abuse. Believing a facility dog would assist with her human patients, Boege advocated for a facility dog from Canine Companions for Independence, a California-based nonprofit that trains and provides assistance dogs free of charge.

Groups of students were tasked with creating a training plan for Surf that he could use to help children in therapy, Boege explained. Each group researched the use of service dogs nationwide, then identified a new command to teach Surf based upon the commands the dog had already learned. The students outlined the training plan, explained how the commands would be helpful to use with children in therapy and outlined the training plan that they would use.

Boege was pleased with the students’ work. “The commands the students developed … would be effective in providing kids with comfort and fun during treatment,” she said. “They all did a wonderful job.”