Her name is Reba and she is always ready to be a friend to her students.
When the morning activities begin at Skyline School each weekday, energy floods the hallways as students find their classrooms, teachers find their students and everyone gets where they need to go. Reba, the therapy dog, is part of all that activity, a calming presence for some who might be overwhelmed by the rush and the hurry.
Reba, a 9-year-old red Irish setter, has been a therapy and diabetic alert dog at Skyline for 8 years. Her owner, Kristin McPherson got her from CARES in Concordia and she was trained by an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility before coming to Pratt. She is very empathetic with students and seems to know who needs her comfort, McPherson said.
"Reba has been known to help most students calm down if they are upset about something," McPherson said."She has a way about her and realizes that if a student is sitting on the floor or ground, by themselves, that she needs to go check on them. She might just sit beside them or lay her head on their leg."
On Wednesday morning, amid the usual hurry and scurry of a new school day, Reba was on duty, licking hands, standing patiently as children stopped to pet her and looking into the eyes of those who got down on her level to say a special 'hello.'
"Students are always excited to have Reba around," McPherson said. "They approach her and let her sniff their hand before petting her. If she is feeling overwhelmed by too many students at one time, she will walk away from them. She is gentle-natured, however, there are always a few students who are afraid of dogs. If they will spend a little time around her, they usually realize how approachable she is and that she won't jump on them. She most often wins them over easily."
McPherson, who teaches 5th and 6th grade at Skyline, said Reba was great with people but she usually just ignores other dogs, unless they are walking on school sidewalks.
"Normally she turns away and doesn't sniff other dogs or get in their face," McPherson said. "And she especially doesn't like other dogs on her sidewalks, but she is getting used to Simba, another therapy dog that belongs to a Skyline student, because Simba is always excited to see Reba."
McPherson said having specially trained dogs in the school setting has been very beneficial for Skyline students so far.
"When someone is lonely or not feeling the best, it seems Reba knows and makes her way over to check on that child. She cares so much about them and they seem to realize that they all have a special friend in her."