VHHS welcomes Basil the therapy dog


Students Justina Chua (right) and Alex Tantasook (Left) sit next to Basil the dog

This year, Vernon Hills High School welcomed a furry new family member: Basil the labradoodle. This certified therapy dog aims to provide emotional support and create a more enjoyable environment for students.

Counselor Ms. Heinlein is Basil’s owner. Her family adopted him 5 years ago when he was 6 weeks old. 

The idea to bring in Basil emerged when the school brought therapy dogs into the foyer during AP testing and before finals to help students relax. SAP Coordinator Ms. Dillon said that seeing the impact led staff and administrators to consider bringing in a permanent therapy dog.

“Our administration has seen the payoff of [having therapy dogs],” Dillon said. “I think it was good because they got a dry run to see how kids liked it.”

Starting on a building level, Ms. Dillon and Counselor Tiffany Heinlein discussed the idea of a therapy dog with Assistant Principal Mr. Stilling and Principal Dr. Guillaume. With overall support, the idea was brought to the superintendent’s office and to the Board of Education.

While discussing the possibility of having a permanent therapy dog, Heinlein felt her dog was well-behaved enough to become a therapy dog. 

During this process, Dillon described the consideration that had to be taken for allergies and those with a fear of dogs. Administration also had to decide if a therapy dog would be more distracting or beneficial.

The solution was to install gates and to notify students in advance of where Basil will be and if they are comfortable with him to prevent problems from occurring. 

Since the school year began, Basil has already made some students happier. Brianna Baker (12) is one student who benefits from Basil’s arrival.

Baker explained how his social personality attracts students. Baker feels that Basil provides students with the comfort they need to have a calm day at school.

“I have my own emotional support dog at home, and since I can’t bring him to school everyday with me, I’m happy that Basil is here,” Baker said. “It’s [like] being home away from home.”

VHHS Counselor Ms. Heinlein explained that to become a certified therapy dog, Basil had to pass two tests. The first test was the good citizenship test for distraction training. The second was the therapy test which examined how Basil would react to different scenarios.

“Another one for the therapy test was they’ll pull on his feet and his tail and his ears,” Heinlein explained. “Just walking past people and other dogs… walking past food without reacting to them.”

After passing the evaluation, Basil took classes to become a therapy dog at A Closer Bond, an all-inclusive canine center, in Palatine. His class was a 10 week long therapy dog training program, according to Dillon. 

Heinlein said he will be featured in the staff section of the 2019-2020 yearbook. Basil can be found at school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.