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'They bring joy every day': Cabot school service dogs helping kids deal with stress

The district now has four educational/service assistance dogs by the names of Jasper, Bentley, Gus and Rio.

CABOT, Ark. — At the Cabot Learning Academy, the morning arrival is often the happiest time. As soon as students arrive, they are greeted by Jasper — the school service dog.

Former principal and Jasper’s human Joanne Blalock drops him off every morning. 

“The children will come and read to him in the K-2 classroom,” Blalock said.

Current principal, Kim Griffin, loves the interaction Jasper has with her students. 

“The kids like to leave him notes, he has his own mailbox, Griffin said. "So, the kids will leave him notes and put them up on Jasper’s wall.” 

Jasper produced so much success that other schools in the district have added dogs of their own.

Meet Bentley, Eastside Elementary’s proudest pup. Principal Jill Fletcher calls him a blessing.

“He brings joy every day," Fletcher said. "The kids love to see him every morning and the teachers come and see him every morning. I’ve really got to develop neat relationships with families about dogs.”

There’s no better relationship than Bentley and his best friend Braxton. 

“To give that family feel here in the building and to have a family dog has added even more to that.”

Speaking of adding, that’s exactly what they did at the Cabot Freshman Academy once they heard about Bentley. 

“Everybody loves Gus," Principal Ahna Davis said. "He has brought so much laughter, joy, and happiness to our campus it’s been amazing.”

Gus specializes in the older kids, especially Freshman Dalton Hughes. 

“He likes to eat a lot, reminds of myself honestly," Hughes said. "Probably why we got along so well.”

Principal Davis adds, “It’s one of those things where you need to take timeout and have fun. Dogs kind of teach you that. It teaches our kids and our teachers that it’s ok to stop a minute and relax. It’s okay and to have fun.”

The fourth and final stop at Cabot Junior High North introduces us to Rio. CJHN principal Charlotte Sandage said he’s able to help when a student is feeling flustered or anxious.

“Petting on him will just change a mood in a heartbeat," Sandage said. "The joy that he brings to some people, and it just makes their day to come to school.”

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