RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KARK) — There’s a new kid in class at an Arkansas Elementary School, as the district welcomes its first therapy dog.
Down the halls of Center Valley Elementary, instead of waving everyone knows to raise their paws, it’s the school’s new greeting for Ranger, the first kid with four legs.
“He’s the most popular kid at school,” said School Counselor Angela McGuigan. “Everyone loves him, everyone wants to be around him.”
Ranger shares a classroom with McGuigan, it was her idea to bring in the 7-month-old Goldendoodle.
“It really is an amazing thing to see a child go from being really upset to their face just light up when he walks in the room,” she said.
At first, McGuigan says she was looking for a way to help kids cope with grief, including the loss of a parent or families going through divorce. From there she realized a therapy dog could fill even more roles.
Ranger is now a go-to for kids, with McGuigan explaining Ranger has helped walk new kids to class and even be a comfort when it’s time to get a flu shot.
“He takes their stress away,” she said.
The pup is also a good listener helping kids learn to read and students learning English as their second language.
“He’s just a judge free audience and they build their confidence talking to him,” McGuigan added.
This year is being called a trial for Ranger, but the results they’re already seeing are reasons why Superintendent Dr. Mark Gotcher says dogs could come to other Russellville schools.
“If a therapy dog is one way we can help shape and change the lives of these kids I’m all for it,” he said.
Ranger is getting a lot of support from the community.
The Russellville Pet Smart pays for his supplies, grooming and training.
Parents are also on board, the district says they polled parents ahead of bringing in Ranger and has resounding support.