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Innisfil teacher paddling Lake Simcoe with service dog

Nantyr Shores Secondary School special education teacher Jane Boake and her dog, Buddy, are making a special trip to mark the veteran service dog’s retirement.

Boake and Buddy will paddle around Lake Simcoe on a standup paddle board from July 29 to Aug. 6 to raise awareness and funds for her COPE Service Dogs Canines in the Classroom program.

After founding COPE in 2000, she realized how much dogs could help people with a wide range of challenges — not just physical. That led her to start bringing training service dogs to a local high school to help students who were struggling.

The Canines in the Classroom program is aimed at students with mental health challenges and learning disabilities. The young people learn how to train service dogs in class; both puppies that are candidates for service dogs and older animals suited to the classroom program.

Canines in the Classroom helps students learn to communicate and become more social so they become engaged and successful, in and out of the classroom.

The program is costly, but it’s worth the investment, Boake said. “More dogs in schools results in happier kids.”

As their training dogs’ skills increase, the students become happier and more confident themselves, Boake says.

“It’s all about mental health,” she said “When they train the dogs, their confidence goes through the roof. The program has huge mental health benefits.”

Boake and Buddy start their paddleboarding adventure at Innisfil Beach Park July 29, hitting Camp Arrowhead and Friday Harbour July 30, Jackson’s Point Aug. 1, Couchiching Beach Park in Orillia Aug. 4 and arriving at the main stage at Barrie’s Kempenfest Aug. 5 to mark Buddy’s 13th birthday.

During each stop along the way, Boakes will offer tips on how to train your dog for standup paddling. The paddle will depend on conditions on the lake, she noted, but a boat will accompany the pair and Buddy will be wearing a life-jacket as well.

For more information on the COPE visit . You can also message on Twitter at @buddypaddles. For updated paddle and schedule info, visit

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