After more than five months battling the Paradise Valley Unified School District for permission, Andrea Cohen finally brought her service-dog-in-training into Horizon High School on Thursday.
“She was on perfect behavior,” said Cohen, 17, who is training a yellow Labrador retriever to become a service dog through the nonprofit Power Paws organization.
It could be the final step in a saga that began last fall, when Horizon principal Anthony Capuano told Cohen that the dog, Elizabeth, was not welcome in the school because of safety and allergy concerns.
Last month, Capuano had a change of heart when he met with Cohen’s grandfather, Marvin Cohen, and Power Paws representatives to come up with a pilot program.
Plans were finalized this week after Capuano sent home 1,200 letters to parents of students who might come into contact with the dog.
He received 16 responses, split evenly between support and concern, said Marvin Cohen.
After telephoning the concerned parents, Capuano set up rules for a trial basis.
“It was very moderate and sensible,” Marvin Cohen said. “Once he decided to give it a try, he went about doing it in a very professional and positive way, and I was impressed.”
Elizabeth attended three morning periods on Thursday, then went home.
Andrea Cohen said students she does not even know congratulated her in the hallways — though there were a couple rabble-rousers, too.
“I had a few catcalls, but that’s to be expected — high school boys,” she sighed.
Capuano could not be reached for comment.
Elizabeth will attend school today and next week in what district spokeswoman Judi Willis confirmed was a “two-week trial basis.”
There are some stipulations, though.
Elizabeth will stay away from a chemistry classroom where a girl with cystic fibrosis has class, and she will skip a ceramics class because the silica dust on the floor could harm her.
“This is going to be such a great, awesome learning experience for everybody that steps foot on that campus and sees Elizabeth,” said Heidi Cohen, Andrea’s mother.
Andrea said the fight has been a good experience.
“I’ve learned the value of persistence. Also, I’d say the value of free speech and freedom of the press, because, frankly, that’s what got this off the ground,” she said.