Teachers and their dogs

Claire Lu

1. Biology teacher Pooya Hajjarian

Breed: Chocolate Labrador Retriever

Name: Koochook

Age: 5 years old

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One of biology teacher Pooya Hajjarian’s first memories of Koochook was not pleasant — when he met his fiancée for the first time to get breakfast, Hajjarian remembers looking out the restaurant’s window and seeing a puppy vaguely resembling his own right outside the diner. Hajjarian disregarded this notion that the little dog staring into the diner was his, as it would have been unfeasible for the little puppy to escape from his holding pen and slip out the door. The more he stared, the more he realized something was wrong — it was his puppy.

“It turns out Koochook followed me all the way from my house to the breakfast place,” Hajjarian said with a laugh.

2. French teacher Melanie Lhomme

Breed: Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix

Name: Dixie

Age: Between 1-2 years old

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French teacher Melanie Lhomme encountered a dilemma while deciding what breed of dog to adopt. On one hand, she wanted a say in what type of dog she chose, but on the other hand, it seemed unfair to be overly specific about the physical characteristics of the pet. Lhomme had always been fond of Jack Russell terriers, but refrained from explicitly asking the adoption agency for that specific breed.

“It would have been a bit unethical to pick a perfectly designed dog, when there are so many dogs on the street,” Lhomme said.

Finally, a call came from an animal adoption agency notifying Lhomme of a new Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix found on the streets of Sacramento. Falling in love at first sight, Lhomme named her new dog Dixie.

Although Lhomme and her family enjoy taking Dixie on (pet-friendly!) vacations, it is not all fun and games.

“She gets very anxious about men with uniforms, like police officers,” Lhomme said. “Although she’s tiny, sometimes she won’t listen because she’s so protective of us.”

3. Spanish teacher Joyce Fortune

Breed: Labrador mix

Name: Gwen

Age: 11 years old

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Like Lhomme, Spanish teacher Joyce Fortune also adopted her dog from an adoption agency. Five years after she adopted Gwen, Fortune started to develop eye problems that led to partial blindness and decided to self-train Gwen to help her navigate new places and areas. Because Gwen was never trained to serve as a guide dog, many of Fortune’s new instructions were counterintuitive. It was difficult for Gwen to walk by Fortune’s side and to patiently guide her around curbs and through stoplights, as Gwen was unaccustomed to walking with this pressure. As the months went by, besides learning how to guide Fortune, Gwen also adjusted to wearing harnesses and learned basic guide dog instructions, such as “heel,” “left” and “right.”

“Where I live, I’m very familiar with everything— street corners, lamp posts, buildings,” Fortune said, “but when we go from new place to new place, like on vacations,Gwen is super useful. It took a while for her to distinguish right from left, but now she’s a pro.”