The ordinary life of a high school teenager follows a pretty normal daily routine. Get out of bed, change into presentable clothes, get in your car and quickly get to class before the bell rings.
At La Salle High School, there’s an addition to that routine that makes things a little different. When they arrive at the school, the students are greeted every morning by Athena and Apollo, the principal’s two dogs.
Athena and Apollo are owned by principal Ted Kanelopoulos. Walking through the hallways, Mr. K (as the students call him) is almost always seen with a trail of two dogs behind him. The eldest of the two, Athena, is extremely attached to the school community and during the past 21∕2 years has become used to the busy life of a high school.
Both Labradors, Athena and Apollo, spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week, on the school’s 40-acre campus. Known for their wagging tails and good spirits, the dynamic duo show up almost everywhere, from the junior chemistry class to the main office. (But not the chapel.)
Not only does having dogs at La Salle make it possible for Mr. Kanelopoulos to bring some piece of home to work, it also brings comfort to the students.
Riley Goins, a La Salle sophomore, is among those who says having Athena and Apollo around has helped grow a positive educational environment at the school.
“It makes us feel like more of a family,” said Goins. “It’s a better experience because when you are walking to classes, you see dogs running and they’re all happy. You just think, ‘They’re so cute.’”
And Goins isn’t the only one who thinks this. Henry Hodge, a freshman at La Salle, believes that having the dogs around brings a better sense of love and care throughout the campus.
“They really make the school day more welcoming,” he said. “It has a feeling like being at home.”
Apollo and Athena are not the first dogs to roam the classrooms of La Salle. The tradition began with the principal’s previous two Labs, Naxos (who was part of the campus from 2001-15) and Louka (who was on campus from 2011 until November). Naxos was a gift to the Kanelopoulos family from the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who own and operate the school. One of the school’s families later gave the principal the second dog, as Naxos was needing a companion in order to keep active.
“Since Naxos was a gift from the Brothers, I always thought he should be enjoyed by our entire school community,” said the principal. “Naxos started on our campus having a limited run of our 40-acre campus. However, he was so beloved that he quickly gained access to just about every classroom and office on campus.”
While both Naxos and Louka have passed away, their legacy of affection and hospitality has continued to live on.
Athena was a rescue dog who was acquired to keep Louka company. The most recent member of the school’s canine family is Apollo, a black Lab. Only 3 months old, Apollo practically owns the school with his adventurous personality and heart-warming puppy appearance. Apollo joined the family in early November and, with Athena’s help, has been learning how things work on La Salle’s campus.
“Each dog has trained the next who came along on how to behave as a campus dog,” said Kanelopoulos. “They offer a wonderful welcome to visitors to our campus and are a daily reminder to our students, staff and teachers that we are part of a special community. You can’t help but smile when you see them poking their head into your classroom, see them wrestling on the chapel lawn, or diligently begging for a treat at lunchtime in the commons.”
Athena and Apollo have definitely brought a greater sense of love and kinship to all the students. Together, they are strong (and furry) pillars of friendship and affection within the local La Salle community.