Tripper and his student trainer, Leah Ohm, a 2021 graduate of Gould Academy.

BETHEL — Tripper, named after the canoe, is a Canine Good Citizen dog, but she’s been so much more than that to her family and peers.

“I think what is special about Tripper is her temperament during these hard times for young people,” says Sarah Shifrin, Tripper’s mom. “That she’s very patient. She gives them a lot of love. I think during this time young people need that little touch of home, that human touch because COVID has made young people fragile. It’s just a very safe reminder of home. She reads and tolerates and accepts kids’ emotional need to have a dog hug. I think that’s as unique and important during these times as an educator.”

Has Tripper taught Shifrin, the educator, any lessons? Actually, the answer turned out to be a big “yes!” When Shifrin, was training Tripper for the Canine Good Citizen Test, she had to remind herself to think of Tripper’s needs first.

“If I don’t consider their needs first, their perspective first, what I want won’t even matter,” says Shifrin. “So if Tripper is misbehaving, I just can’t tell her go lay down. I have to think first, why is she misbehaving? Is she misbehaving because she has to go out? Is she misbehaving because she is thirsty? Is she misbehaving because she saw a squirrel and she’d rather be outside?”

As she asks these questions, more questions emerged.

“So what Tripper has reminded me as an educator, is if I want a certain kind of behavior, I need to first consider her,” continues Shifrin. “So as a teacher, when I work with kids, I just can’t go in and be like sit, stay. I have to think, how are they coming into my environment? Are they well-rested? Are they anxious about something? Do they have something on their mind? If I don’t think about them first, I’m never ever going to be able to get them to do what I think they should be doing. So training Tripper as a puppy reminded me I have to first consider where she is.”

Shifrin describes how she can only get her students to understand what she wants to teach them by understanding where they are that day. Just like working with Tripper, she has to put the students first and all their needs, before she can teach them. To ignore this step would result in Tripper not trusting her and therefore not cooperating with the training process, or her students won’t respect her if they are not heard first and that might result in them not doing their homework.

“Because dog training is just about trust,” says Shifrin. “She’s not going to sit because she wants to sit. She’s going to sit because she likes the trusting relationship we have, it feels good. So kids aren’t going to do their homework because they’re like, I can’t wait to do my homework, they’re going to do it because they think it benefits them in some way.

“So she just reminded me I have a powerful position as a teacher, powerful position as a dog owner,” finishes Shifrin “It just reminds me, to get what you want, you first have to consider where they are, what they need, how they might want to get there, and then you’ve got a better chance of meeting your objective.”

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