Who’s a Good Girl?

Catching up with Syrena Miller, one of Big Sky’s cutest faces

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Kaleigh Crider

Syrena Miller stands in main hall, Syrena trained for a year to earn her service dog status.

Kaleigh Crider, Writer

“She’s like an extension of me,” says Amy Miller. “She’s just my bestie.”
Syrena Miller has been a service dog for Mrs. Miller, an English teacher at Big Sky for seven years, since April of 2012. Miller and Syrena have a very strong connection to one another. Syrena is a major help to Miller.
Syrena helps Miller by picking up things — when she drops them, Syrena puts them back on Miller’s lap.
Syrena is a big part of the Big Sky community scene. Mrs. Miller said that Big Sky is like “ a home away from home” for Syrena.
Syrena’s personality at school vs at home is a mix of a social butterfly or on a focused mission. Miller said that “it’s a little bit of both” and that she is also “food motivated.”
Millers sets boundaries with Syrena. Miller said, “people shouldn’t feed her without my permission,” because Syrena is trained to not have people food. Also, she is allergic to grains and has to have special dog food.
Syrena has a complicated effect on Miller’s classes. She can be a distraction. But Miller also feels like she has a positive effect. If someone is having a bad day, Syrena can lighten the mood, Miller says. She makes things better on a personal level. “Some people also come to class just to see her.”
Syrena’s interaction with people can vary. Syrena’s training is to ignore people when they call to her. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like the attention. She loves the attention and will take all she can get. But Syrena’s training was to ignore people other than Miller.
In fact, Syrena spent one year of training at a program in Kansas to get certified for service. She then spent a week with Miller and the trainer to get familiar. Miller got to tell them what she wanted Syrena to be able to do, and she got to request the breed (although the breed wasn’t guaranteed). Finally, Miller had to take a test called the animal handler test.
Syrena has an overall positive impact on Big Sky, and for that matter, so does Miller! So if you see either one in the halls, make sure to say hi.