Therapy dog comforts students in Arapahoe County

Local News

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) – The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office has a secret weapon to help students cope with school, made more stressful and difficult because of the pandemic.

Rex the therapy dog is a very popular addition to Littleton elementary schools this year.

Rex is teaching important lessons at Dr. Justina Ford Elementary School.

“Rex is a really good tool to teach kids empathy, teach them emotional intelligence and really how to understand how they are feeling,” Deputy John Gray and Rex’s partner said.

“He can probably calm an upset kid a lot faster than I would be able to just because he’s a good listener. He’s probably not going to talk back a lot,” Gray said.

Rex started school in August and was an instant hit.

“It’s magical. When Rex is in our school, you can see everyone just let go of everything and just enjoy the moment with him. He brings happiness every day he is here,” principal Teresa Burden said.

Rex has a fan club, his own trading cards, an Instagram page and even gets mail from students.

Second-grader Avery shared her letter.

“Dear Rex, you are soooo cute! You look like you’re my own pet. You are so soft. You remind me of my teacher’s dog which passed away. I like Rex’s black fur and brown eyes. I wonder what his favorite color is. Love Avery,” Avery wrote.

Gus has written four letters to Rex.

“Dear Rex, do you like cats? I do. I have two. How has your week been? Mine has been good,” Gus wrote.

“Some of our fifth graders came up with the idea of making a mailbox for Rex. Even if you didn’t get to see or touch him that day, you can still connect with Rex. It’s a way for them to really feel like they can personally connect with Rex even if they don’t get to see him that day,” Burden said.

Students can earn special time with their favorite pup as a reward for positive behaviors, like reading or having lunch with Rex.

“There is just something about them knowing he is not there to judge them; he is not there to ask anything of them. He is just there to support them,” Burden said.

“It’s awesome. Getting to see so many kids get to interact with rex in such a positive way has been really fun,” Gray said.

Rex is so popular and makes such a difference that program organizers are raising money to expand the program to other schools. Chips with Rex’s picture are being sold for $5, stuffed Rex dolls will soon be available to sell for fundraising.

“The reality is you can’t be in enough places at once. So many people want to see Rex, have him come to a party or a cub scout meeting. We want to be able to be a part of all that, so the more dogs we can get to help our community, the better,” Gray said.

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