Attendance is up, behavior is better and learning is on the rise at Lake Road Elementary in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
And it's all because of a four-legged and furry addition to the classroom. Counselor Valerie Duncan recently suggested the school bring in a "therapy dog" after seeing how well the idea worked at a nearby school. And now, kids at Lake Road are raving about their own canine, a Black Labrador Retriever named Airial.
"She's such a great dog, I just love how smart and nice she is," Connie Taylor, a fourth grader, told KFVS 12. "She brightens everyone's day especially mine."
Airial has a varied job description. Some of her tasks are explicit, she listens attentively as kids read to her, while others are more difficult to define but equally as important; her presence is calming and she serves to lighten the mood.
Just knowing that they'll get to be around Airial has inspired kids not only to come to school, but to be on their best behavior.
"She gives unconditional love," Duncan said. "The kids know that. No matter your grades or background, she just loves you and accepts you."
Airial goes home with Duncan at the end of the day, and the students have labeled Duncan Airial's "mom."
The idea of having a dog work with children is not new, and dogs are becoming more common in hospital settings. But some schools are justifiably wary of introducing a dog into the classroom. If Lake Road is any indication, this heartwarming partnership could have a significant impact under the right circumstances.