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Dr. Grauer's Column - The Rosie Policy

The Rosie Policy

We spotted the ad in The Thrifty Nickel, a free newspaper, at the foot of the mountains, after coming down from a week of packing in Yosemite and, in there was an ad that changed my life and the work of our school. July 16, 1998: dogs for sale in the town of Lindsay, in the central valley of California, south of Yosemite.

Looking back at the old, yellowed newsprint from that edition, I can see that we could have gone for Box Turtles, or even Silkie Chicks or Pot-Belly Pigs. But, of course we wanted a dog. We drove down the narrow, tall-tree lined country lanes and found her in a pen outside a classic old-time farmhouse, a cinnamon blonde colored yellow Labrador retriever, a hunter by heritage and pedigree, and we packed her into the car and headed south for home. Our daughter Audrey had stars in her eyes, and I asked her, “What we should call her?” “Rosie,” she said without skipping a beat.

Dr. Stuart Grauer with Rosie, the original campus dog that began "The Rosie Policy" at The Grauer School

Rosie was incorrigible for a couple of years, wild and over-energetic. She chewed up some of our chair legs, as well as school benefactor Joan Knute’s home irrigation lines. Honestly, I considered bringing her back to the farm. But the moment she turned two years old, she was mellow as could be. It was like magic. Overnight, she was as gentle a soul as could ever be. In a photo I have of that time, she has her whole mouth around Audrey’s head, mouthing.

At age two, stable and sweet at last, we began bringing Rosie onto the school campus every day. She became the second in what would be a line of school dogs. We noticed right away that Rosie was a wiggly and warm kid magnet. Everyone wanted to hug her and play with her.

In those years, I was concerned that school was mandatory. It bothered me that youths were required to sit in a chair all day no matter what they were feeling or needing, just sitting. I did not want any student to feel as though they were in class by force. If a student did not want to do anything, I’d often ask, “Well, then, why did you come you school? What do you want?” Some kids just needed a little warmth and they’d never had it in schools, where they might feel like captives.

And so, we established “The Rosie Policy,” which went about like this: Any student may raise their hand and ask a teacher to go take Rosie for a walk at any time of the day, no questions asked.

Grauer Senior Thalia M. '21 with Pablo, owned by English teacher Christina Burress - April 2018

Some students wanted a Rosie hug, for sure. Others just wanted to get outside, take a walk, be alone for a minute, or who knows what. Maybe they were just having a bad day. School should never make students feel trapped. Really the Rosie Policy was a kind of code for students knowing they were at school because they wanted to be there, not because it was forced, and that as humans they ought to experience a sense of freedom every day. The policy meant more than that they were free, it allowed that we all need a little warmth now and then and, at our school, that warmth and sweetness was always available. That’s the Rosie Policy.

Dogs give real love, the kind that makes for a great school. Dogs have the same hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states. Dogs even have the hormone oxytocin, which, in humans, is involved with feeling affection for others. The bonding relationship between dogs and humans can be traced back at least 15,000 years. For centuries, dogs have been labeled as "man's best friend," offering companionship and loyalty to humans. Scientists have shown that when you even just stare at a friendly dog you like, your oxytocin levels go up right along with the dog’s, the same as when you pet them and play with them. When the human brain releases oxytocin, stress levels drop, learning and memory increase, and relaxation, trust, and psychological stability all increase.

Grauer Visual Arts teacher Johnny King with his dog, Juno - February 3, 2021

I got a lot of heat in those days from other educators who thought a campus was no place for a dog, or that it was unfitting for a college preparatory environment. It just made the Rosie Policy clearer and more resolute in my mind. I always wanted to know: Why do we intentionally throw out so much of the best things we know about learning as soon as kids start high school? I don’t get heat any more, since I guess we’ve been around so long, but I still want to know.

Rosie was more than a dog; she was a kind, compassionate soul that provided a great deal of love, kisses, comfort, and two listening ears to countless Grauer School students over almost 13 years on campus. Then she got pretty old and started getting stressed out. Kathy Boehme is a double alumni mom (Marcus, class of 2015 and Jason, class of 2019), and she is also the greatest veterinarian in the world—a genuine dog whisperer. She told us that Rosie felt a great responsibility to be there for the kids every day and it became too much for her—her hearing and sight were fading. One day, she wandered off the campus trying to find her way home. That was a pretty big scare, and we knew Rosie’s days on campus were over. But we kept the Rosie Policy and it is still alive and well, even today. In fact, any number of other dogs have provided Grauer students with the kind of love dogs provide. Christina’s dogs Pablo and Bodie, Johnny’s dog Juno, Trevor’s dog Coco, Tricia’s dog Mickey, and others all make our campus a place of more love, trust, and peace.

Grauer Junior Lucy S. '22 with Mickey, owned by Tricia Valeski in Grauer's Admissions & Research Department - March 2020

Rosie was as sweet and warm as they come and made the school sweeter. Not a bad life’s work. I hope we will always have the Rosie Policy at our School, and that students and teachers will know about it. I hope that every week at our school some student will raise their hand and ask, “Can I take Rosie for a walk?”


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Dr. Stuart Grauer with Rosie, the original campus dog that began "The Rosie Policy" at The Grauer School

Grauer Senior Thalia M. '21 with Pablo, owned by English teacher Christina Burress - April 2018

Grauer Visual Arts teacher Johnny King with his dog, Juno - February 3, 2021

Grauer Junior Lucy S. '22 with Mickey, owned by Tricia Valeski in Grauer's Admissions & Research Department - March 2020

Grauer Athletic Director Trevor Olson with his dog, Coco - April 2018

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