Meet Cedar, Punahou’s Therapy Dog

Punahou welcomes its new therapy dog, Cedar, to the Student Support and Wellness (S+Well) Department. Since her recent debut on campus, Cedar has been supporting students at all grade levels. Outside of School, she visits seniors at the Arcadia Family of Companies retirement residence alongside handler Chaplain George Scott. (Fun fact: Cedar and Scott share the same parents’ names, mother Ruby and father Sam. “A sign from God,” Scott says.) 

Cedar is following in the pawprints of Moose, a sweet Golden Retriever boy who recently retired after eight years of supporting Punahou and the community.

Born on Jan. 1, 2020, Cedar is a “Goldador” (Golden Retriever and Labrador mix) from The Assistance Dogs of Hawaii program and the first dog to be placed in a school. Cedar is trained as a therapy dog and knows over 100 commands, including how to wave, shake hands and “visit,” where she sits next to a person and rests her head on their lap. 

As her handler, Scott went through a weeklong intensive training on Maui with the Assistance Dogs of Hawaii trainers before bringing Cedar home to live with his family, which includes Bella, a 7-year-old French bulldog mix, and Scott’s wife, Bridget.

Punahou’s therapy dog program got its start eight years ago with Moose, owned by the Goldstein family (Leela ’85, Olivia ’19, Maila ’20 and Brian), who kindly shared their lovable dog with the School community. “Moose was a natural. He was born to be a therapy dog and required very little training,” Scott said. Highlights of Moose’s time include providing a welcoming presence for second and third graders learning to read, being a comforting companion for many high school students, and starring in the 2018 Variety Show. Moose in now back with his family full time. 

Moose was invited to campus, in part, by animal lover and former Academy Dean Lisa Stewart, who focused her master’s degree on the animal-human connection and thought that Punahou would benefit from a therapy dog. Scott says he sees an incredible change in students having a therapy dog around. It puts students at ease and is an additional resource for counselors in the S+Well Department, providing comfort and companionship for students.

“Dogs synchronize with people’s emotions,” Scott said. “They synchronize with joy or sadness and help dissipate raw emotion. They can turn a situation in another direction and give a person hope.”

One such example comes from Moose, who without instruction, left Scott’s side during football practice one day to sit with a player sidelined with an injury. Scott, who coaches football, recalls, “I thought to myself, where did Moose go? And he was sitting right next to the football player because he could just sense that student needed him.”

Punahou School is grateful to Assistance Dogs of Hawaii and is looking forward to having Cedar be a part of the ‘ohana.

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