Therapy dog helps students on "ruff" days

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Each time counselor Kristen Rapert enters a classroom at Lee Hunter elementary in Sikeston, a small Papillon named "Mikey" is by her side.

"They're always looking for him."

You could say Mikey is the new student here, but his job isn't to learn. It's to teach good behavior and to listen when someone's having a "ruff" day.

"He really brings down walls. A lot of kids might be scared to talk to me, but they see him and they're going to talk to him quickly."

"He's just like a person. He teaches you how to be. He's a really good influence," said second grader Sophie Hamra.

In fact, Mikey is trained to be that way. Counselor Rapert raised money to bring this therapy dog to school, and even traveled to Kansas to complete the training with him. She says the little Papillon has already made a difference.

"One day I had a student in my office who was having a hard time with a grandmother who had passed away. I don't know if he meant to do it or not, but he nosed off on one of my dry erase markers on my board. So, I told her Michael wants you to draw grandma. She did and her attitude improved just like that. It's just little things."

She says the little dog also migrates towards pain.

"One of our staff members had back surgery. He went right to her and went "en pointe" like they do in dog shows. Sometimes, he sits down in front of someone and lets me know that person is in pain. Very helpful."

He does do a lot of sitting, very patiently, as dozens of little hands reach to pet him. After all, if these students make their reading goals, they get special time with the little dog. Student Jamelvion Banks even came up with his own game.

"Having staring contests with him!"

Counselor Rapert hopes, staring contest or not, each time these students look into the puppy dog eyes, they know there's someone at school who cares about them.

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