Paws for Pioneers

Paws for Pioneers Mission

It is the mission of Paws for Pioneers to provide emotional, social, and academic support through the introduction and interaction of therapy certified dogs in Stillwater Public Schools. Through this program students, teachers, and guests have the opportunity to interact with therapy dogs. This approach has proven to improve student motivation and foster academic success, while lowering stress and anxiety.

Proven Success

Research strongly indicates that school therapy dogs can help reduce the effects of trauma, anxiety and stress in students/staff, significantly increase academic achievement, improve student behaviors, increase school attendance, and build confidence and social skills. 

Booker at Dance a thon


Get to know our therapy dogs

There are currently three dog/handler teams working in SPS schools. 

  • Cali & Special Education Teacher Rachel Embree at Sangre Ridge  
  • Booker & Library Media Specialist Sarah Major at Sangre Ridge 
  • Junee & Math Teacher Kane Mach at Stillwater Junior High

Cali - Sangre Ridge

SPS_5764Cali attends almost daily and works with a small portion of students in Ms. Embree's room - as well as with groups of students that need to take breaks and have "Cali time." 

Booker - Sangre Ridge

Booker at Sangre Booker visits less regularly and serves as a "special guest" in the library at Sangre Ridge Elementary.

Junee - SJHS

SPS_5545Junee, who last year visited Will Rogers frequently, recently started at the junior high where she spends time in Mr. Mach's room, greeting students in the halls and making special visits as needed.


Paws for Pioneers requires that all handler/dog teams certify through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Teachers then meet with their site principals and establish site-specific approval and expectations. Students are required to have a permission slip signed by a guardian and there are 3 levels of access. 

  1. Full access to petting, playing, etc.
  2. Access to the same room as a dog/handler team but not allowed to pet/touch
  3. No access

At each school, the dogs are introduced at assemblies and the proper "pet manners" are taught such as asking for permission before petting a dog, staying in line and following teacher directions when encountering a dog in the building, and staying calm and respectful of the dog's space. SPS also has guidelines about health and safety such as keeping dogs out of rooms where food is served. Each dog wears a vest identifying them as a therapy animal.