Therapy dogs making a difference at Poplar Bluff schools - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Therapy dogs making a difference at Poplar Bluff schools

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Unusual four-legged faculty members are now making a big difference at the Poplar Bluff School District.

Administrators say therapy dogs give boosts in learning, attendance and behavior.  At Lake Road Elementary, they are excited about their top dog named Airial.

"She's such a great dog, I just love how smart and nice she is," said Connie Taylor, a fourth grade student. "She brightens everyone's day especially mine," said Taylor.

Airial is a Black Labrador Retriever who is specially bred and trained to be a therapy dog.

"She's gone above and beyond my expectations," said Principal Erica Weadon.

Weadon says she and Counselor Valerie Duncan did their research before deciding a dog would be a good fit.

"We were really excited and thought it would be wonderful," said Weadon. "We went to Scott City to see their dog 'Butter' in action, and we just thought a dog would be great for Lake Road."

"When she had her vest on, she knows it's time to work," said Duncan.

Part of her job description includes classroom instruction. Kids love to read to her.

"Sometimes she lays on me and I show her pictures so she knows what I'm reading," said Caiden Pollite, a third grade student.

She's also been a great tool to give students an incentive for good behavior, and also helps calm them down if they are troubled.

"You can express yourself and say whatever you want to her," said Taylor. "She doesn't talk back."

"Sometimes when you have something sad to say you can talk to Airial and she makes you feel happy," said Pollite.

"She gives unconditional love," said Duncan. "The kids know that. No matter your grades or background, she just loves you and accepts you."

She's even been a boost to attendance.

"Kids do want to come to school to see her because they know she's going to be here," said Weadon.

At the end of the day Airial goes home with Duncan. The students call Duncan ‘Airial's mom.'

"We love having her," said Duncan.

Airial is one of two dogs in the Poplar Bluff District. The 5th and 6th Grade Center is home to Creggan, a two and a half year old Irish Setter.

Therapy dogs were paid for through donations from businesses, individuals and civic organizations.

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