GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) – Imagine your teacher being a dog. Well, that is the case in Barton County. What started as an idea five years ago is now becoming a reality as an unusual teacher is now walking the halls.
Barton County Special Services (BCSS) has added a four-legged furry friend to their team. One that will be making a difference in students’ lives across the entire county.
Gabby, a three and half-month-old sheepadoodle is a ‘grow their own’ therapy dog meaning the BCSS will be raising and training her to serve the specific needs of special education students in and around the Great Bend area.
“You can really see the difference in what she does for a student,” said Christie Gerdes Director of Special Education for BCSS.
Gabby is different from a typical service dog. Instead of completing tasks, she will aid specifically to the emotional support of children.
“She’s growing up to be a support for students who struggle with social-emotional problems,” said Gerdes.
The service center says with a perfect temperament, she is helping students learn how to stay calm and self regulate while also instilling lessons of kindness and caring.
“We’ve had some students where they’ve been upset, frustrated, and visibly so, and it’ll be interesting because she’ll be in a classroom with a student who’s like that, and she gravitates towards them,” Gerdes said.
In her first few weeks on the job, Gabby has already visited numerous schools across the county, and in the classroom, Gabby’s effect on students is immediate.
“Gabby’s cute. You can’t help but smile when she bounces into a classroom or when you see students’ faces just really light up,” said Andrea Bauer, Public Information Director USD 428.
Although Gabby’s work will be geared more toward special needs students, she will still be helping all students Pre-K through 12th grade who may need her support.
“You can tell that she is geared towards being with people and greeting and being there for them,” said Gerdes.