Therapy Dog Training Program

Applications for the 2017-2018 School Year are now online. See Below.

dog book

Students Apply Here

Owners Apply Here

Bonita High School’s Therapy and Service Dog Training Program started in 2011. Interested juniors apply to become a student dog trainer during their senior year, and if accepted, they are matched with a BUSD staff member’s dog that has passed prerequisite requirements and a strict personality assessment. The student then works with the owner and a professional dog trainer to train the dog on and off campus throughout the year to become an excellently behaved dog who enjoys working with the students of Bonita Unified schools. Our dogs work with many special needs populations, help students with test anxiety, motivate students to earn the privilege of handling the dog,and are a happy distraction when students are overly stressed in the office and many other jobs. We specifically train our dogs to be terrific assistants on school campuses, but they also become fully certified therapy dogs who can go to work in hospitals, nursing homes and other situations where they can improve people’s quality of life. The service dogs go on to further specialized training, before being placed with a new partner that they will assist for the duration of their career as a working service dog. Our student-trainers work extremely hard over the year; often acquiring over 300 hours of direct training time with their dog. After the program, the therapy dogs continue to work at the BUSD schools for years to come, often coming to work with their owners.

We have seen so many students benefit from our dogs in so many different ways. The student handlers learn how to train a dog for this important work as well as mastering how to multitask to do well in their classes and tend to the dog’s needs. Many students love to sit with a dog if they have severe test anxiety and they see their total test-taking time improve as well as their scores. We have many dogs working with various special education student populations throughout the district in many different ways. One dog works with his owner who is an adaptive PE teacher so the students get to walk and run with him on the track or throw toys for him to retrieve. One dog’s owner is a speech instructor so the students will read stories to the dog making speech therapy much more fun. One dog’s owner’s students all have autism and struggle with communication, so spending time with the dog is precious therapy for them. When a student is having a rough emotional crisis day, sending a dog to sit with them in the office as they work through their issues brings them back to a solid happy place much quicker. Often you will see a crowd gather at lunch to play with the dogs, feed them, or even just get a nice cuddle.

Having the dogs on Bonita Unified campuses has improved both the students’ and the dogs’ lives in many ways. If their owners had not joined the program, these pooches would be sitting home alone all day and now they have fabulous days, improving the lives of students.


Meet Our Four-legged Friends

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“Hazel” is a chocolate Lab born in 2010. Hazel works at Bonita High School and is best friends with Jimmy. Hazel is a bit on the shy side until she is given a cookie or played with using a laser light to chase, but her favorite activity is to play fetch. She loves it when the students take her outside and throw the ball and will fetch indefinitely. She started the program in 2011.


“Jimmy” is a brown Tabby born in 2011. Jimmy works at Bonita High School and is the best of friends with Hazel. Jimmy likes to rest in his cat tree while keeping a close eye on the students to make sure they are working hard. His favorite thing is when the students give him nice rub downs and treats. He started the program in 2011.





Current Trainees




“Ace” is a black lab. As a guide dog puppy in training, He’ll live with his puppy raiser until he is 18 months old. Then, he’ll go back to Guide Dogs of America for college, and one day, become the eyes for a visually impaired partner.  When he’s not hanging out at Bonita or working, he is usually playing with his best friend, Leonard. Ace loves squeaky toys and running around in the backyard. He’s a people pleaser and his whole body wiggles when he knows it’s playtime. Ace loves being a service dog because he gets to go everywhere with his handler! Ace can’t wait to see what the future holds because he knows he has big paws to fill!




“Baymax” was born on May 28th, 2015. He is always full of energy, playful, and has so much personality!  He loves people, eats like a champ, and enjoys his daily walks!  He loves to go hiking, knows how to swim, and will pretty much do anything for a delicious treat!  He is very sweet and never fails to make you smile and laugh!  His favorite movie is Big Hero 6!” 


“Callie” is a 4 year old, red merle, miniature Australian shepherd. She has bright blue eyes and little spots on her pink nose.  Her favorite game to play is tug and she will eat absolutely anything but olives.  Her mother left pizza out once and she ate the entire thing but left behind the olives. She is extremely patient and doesn’t mind being poked or prodded. She LOVES snuggles and will do anything for pets or treats. Callie has multiple unique siblings including a hedgehog, ferret, and squirrel.  Her patience helps her create unlikely friendships. Callie gets along with everyone, and she is very excited to be a therapy dog!


“Darth Maximus” is a three year old rottweiler/labrador mix. His family adopted him when he was 5 months old. Max is very playful and friendly. He knows EVERYONE wants to pet him, throw his ball, and get a puppy kiss from him! He loves playing fetch and flashlight tag. His favorite snack is peanut butter and he runs into the kitchen as soon as his people open the jar! He really likes spending time with people so he thought becoming a therapy dog would be right up his alley! When his smallest family member is sad, she likes to sit and talk to him and it helps her feel better. After he becomes a therapy dog, Max is excited to go to his mom’s school and read with her students! 


“Jack” Buck. Black and white border collie/aussie born in 2008. “Jack” works at Bonita High School and Ramona Middle School. “Jack” might be one of the smartest dogs on the planet and lives for exercising both his body and mind. He can do puzzles meant for dogs extremely quickly, many, many commands beyond the average dog and can play frisbee and fetch for extended periods of time. Being a herding dog he enjoys helping to “herd” the students during passing period.


“Lucy” is a 4 and a half-year-old labradoodle who was named after one of her mom’s favorite childhood TV stars. She weighs 81 pounds and her coat is curly and black. She lives with her mom and dad and has 2 sisters and a brother who work as teachers for Bonita Unified School District. Her mom thinks this is why she loves kids so much. Lucy is very gentle and has never dug a hole or destroyed any of her toys. This mellow girl’s favorite toy is a pink pig that squeaks. She loves walking everyday and can’t wait to go to the beach to retrieve balls in the waves every week. She loves biscuits and the treats she gets daily. She is looking forward to going to work every week and getting to be the center of attention!




“Nala” DelGadillo. White labradoodle born in 2015. “Nala” is also very young and super playful. She works at Bonita High School and Roynon Elementary School. She is probably the happiest dog on the planet and her favorite thing to do is greet everyone she can as many times as she can. She wags her tail so hard that her entire body wags right along with it.


“Newton” was named after Sir Isaac Newton, creator of Calculus, because my dad, Mr. Wes, absolutely loves Calculus. He is just over a year old and has been with his family since he was 3 months old.  He is a labradoodle, and his parents got him from a breeder all the way in South Carolina. He is a dog that absolutely loves people. Newton gets so excited any time he has the opportunity to meet new people, and he loves to greet everyone that comes across his path. He is also very playful and will play fetch until you force him to stop. Newton also loves to chew on cow hooves (and anything else I can find).  Although he is an active dog, he does enjoy relaxing and being calm around people. His parents take him to assisted living and he loves to greet the residents and let them pet him. If you get up and leave the room, he will follow and sit beside you because he enjoys the company of people. He is very excited to become a therapy dog and looks forward to seeing everyone on campus this year!


“Nixon” is a 3-year-old black pug. He has a white patch on his chest and is on the smaller size of a typical pug. Nixon was rescued from the animal shelter by his parents in February 2016. When he first met them, he was scared and shy, but with their love, he came out of his shell! He learned to play with toys of all kinds and enjoys being around anybody. Nixon is very easy going and has not met anything he doesn’t like! His mom calls him a spaz…Especially when he decides to run around the house full speed, for no reason. When not mountain climbing the couch and tables, Nixon can be found near the closest human giving plenty of kisses. His goal with becoming a therapy dog is to spread laughter and kisses to all.  If you’re ever in need come see Nixon for some kisses!


“Sadie” met her Mom and Dad at a dog park in Pasadena when they came to adopt her from the foster family she was living with. She was so happy to have a new home, and has many brothers and sisters (humans, dog, cats and turtle). She loves her whole family, but she has to admit that she is afraid of the cats. She likes to eat, play ball, go for walks and ride in the car. She really likes to run. She runs around in circles in her yard, up and down the stairs as fast as she can, and with her friends at the dog park. She is a very sweet and friendly girl. She enjoys making new friends, but most of all, she likes being with her family, whether they are going places or just hanging out at home.


“Turbo” is a 7 year old fawn pug. Don’t let the fluff fool you. He is simply big boned, at least that is what his parents tell him. He is tan all over with black spots on his face, head, and back. His favorite toys are anything with cotton and a good squeaker! His favorite snacks consist of any food, the occasional toilet paper, and above all WATERMELON! He is pretty calm, chill, happy guy with random spurts of “turboness.” His mom will have her own special education classroom soon, and this is where all his training in the program will be used. He is really excited to have the opportunity to be around people and give everybody tons of love. If you are near, please make sure to stop by and give him a good cuddle or belly rub.

Past Program Graduates


“Annabelle” Sapienza. Redbone coonhound born in 2014. “Annabelle” works at Bonita High School and San Dimas High School and is quite the character. Her owner teaches autistic students who can struggle to communicate and Annabelle is great at getting people to open up. She is super sweet and loves to be pet but also is super fun to watch her interact with her world. She is bound and determined to make sure she gets a close look at every single non-dog animal on the planet, especially lizards, cats, and her absolute nemesis SQUIRRELS. She wants to make sure every squirrel on the planet knows she is keeping an eye on them and is super funny while doing so.


“Bennett” is a Caramel colored Australian Labradoodle born in 2014. “Bennett” works at Bonita High School as well as La Verne Heights, etc. “Bennett” is an extremely sweet, easy going dog who is game for just about everything. He will dress up in fun costumes to promote school spirit, help the cheer team practice for rallies and will sit with students for as long as it takes to help them study and be prepared for their exams.


“Brandi” Zago. Brown lab mix born in 2007. “Brandi” is one of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet. She works at Bonita High School in the office. She is super calm and her favorite thing to do is snuggle. It is impossible to be stressed out if you are around this sweetie pie.


“Charlie” Johnson. Grey and white maltipoo born in 2013. Charlie works at Bonita High School and is a feisty sweetheart. Even though he is small in size he makes sure we all know he is there. He tends to be the alpha male when all the dogs come together to play and makes sure all the other dogs play nicely. He LOVES to play with every tennis ball al the same time and will play fetch right along with the big dogs.


“Colt” Ray. Black lab/terrier/chihuahua mix born in 2011. “Colt” was the tiniest dog to ever be in the program and was about 1 pound when he first started coming to school. He works at Bonita High School in an English class and is just the happiest dog on the planet. He loves everyone and his tail wags at the slightest smile. He holds the record for the quickest and most tight circles ran chasing the laser light and watching him spin so fast makes everyone feel a bit dizzy, yet he does it like a pro. “Colt” joined the program in 2012.


“Dublin” Archibald. Tibetan Terrier born in 2011. He works at Bonita High School in an English classroom. He is very calm and low key and is so good, you might not even notice he is in the room. He is a very sweet dog who loves to be pet and snuggle. “Dublin” joined the program in 2013.

Golden Labrador Retriever puppy lying down with its head cocked slightly to the side and its tongue hanging out

“Finn” Johnson. Yellow Lab, age 6. She works at Roynon in Kindergarten. Her favorite thing to do is have the students read to her as they snuggle with her. “Finn” joined the program in 2012.


“Izzy” Williams. Goldendoodle born in 2015. “Izzy” previously worked at Bonita High School and San Dimas High School in the libraries since her owner was the district librarian. One of the youngest in our program, she is still a bit wiggly, but pretty soon, she will be just the snuggle item to make curling up with a good book in library a perfect way to spend your day. Since she is still teething, her favorite activity is chewing on her toys. She also LOVES to play with braided hair because it is like a rope bone. “Izzy” left the program in 2016 to enjoy retirement with her owner and all the adventures that come along with it.


“Kobe” Berry. Black lab born in 2014. “Kobe” is the most gorgeous, shiny black lab that has the gentle, sweet personality to match. “Kobe” works at Bonita High School as well as Ramona Middle School, etc. His owner is a speech pathologist so “Kobe” helps our students work through their speech sessions by having the students read to him and speak to him. It makes the sessions very fun and motivating for the students.


“Lambchop” Cantwell. White Bichon/Poodle born in 2003. “Lambchop” is a super rockstar who was in the accelerated program and learned everything she needed in 2 months time. She works at nearly every school site in the district because her owner is an occupational therapist in the district. So “Lambchop” works with a large number of our special needs population and does a terrific job at it.


“Moose” Turner. Chocolate Labradoodle born in 2012. He works at Bonita High School as well as many other school sites, The University of La Verne and various other volunteer stops. “Moose” was the calmest puppy to ever exist and was born already knowing how to behave and be perfect on a leash. He is a wonderful calming presence in every situation and the students are just relaxed and happy to be around him. “Moose” joined the program in 2012.


“Oakley” Okayama. Black lab born in 2011. “Oakley” is the athletic one in the bunch loving to play as much as possible. He works at Bonita High School and appropriately in the PE area. He is very sweet and wants to play with EVERYONE who will play with him.


“Odie” Bowerman. Boxer born in 2011. “Odie” works at Bonita High School as well as LaVerne Heights, etc. “Odie’s” owner teachers adaptive physical education at many schools in the district so he works directly with students who need some extra assistance and he works out right along side them. “Odie” is a super sweetie, lovie dovie, little man and will snuggle anyone willing to snuggle him.


“Shade” Thompson. Chocolate Lab born in 2010. He works at Bonita High School and loves to greet each and every student that walks in the room. His favorite thing to do is to play fetch with anyone and everyone and also likes to run and wrestle with the other dogs. He is a super sweetie with an endless supply of energy. “Shade” started the program in 2011.

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