TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- Their greatest trick isn't to sit, stay or roll over--therapy dogs are being used in Topeka schools to take a bite out of bullying.
The dogs are making the rounds during enrollment this week at Landon Middle School. While many students say they are excited, Grace Eno has fears about becoming a 6th grader that these furry helpers aim to calm.
Grace says she fears being bullied again in school.
"I get called a 'midget' because of my size. People will be like 'she's a midget' and when I was smaller I used to have a pixie cut, they said 'she's a boy, I don't know why she is pretending to be a girl,' because I had a boy haircut. I wanted my hair to grow back. I wished there was a hair fairy so they wouldn't call me a boy anymore," says Grace.
"They are always here for you alright," says school psychologist Stephanie Avila. She says her 2 therapy dogs will help students, like Grace, by eliminating bullying in schools.
"We try to acclimate them and introduce them to what dogs can do and we teach them empathy and compassion and things that prevent bullying," says Avila.
She says her dogs, Broghan and Gracie, also have an innate ability to sense anxiety and stress. They respond right away.
"They are like little people who are fuzzy and adorable with big pointy ears and long wiggly tails," Grace smiles as she pets the dogs.
"The dogs help facilitate them talking about it. I think they feel calm and more self assured," says Avila. Avila says Broghan and Gracie can help the bullies too.
"The kids that are the bullies have a lot of work to do because they have issues that are creating this and so the dogs help get to those issues and bring them to the surface and we can work to eliminate that," says Avila.
Something that Gracie thinks will create a "paws-itive" outcome.
"They can have their own furry companion that can give a little snuggle and hug whenever they feel sad," says Grace.
Avila says her therapy dogs have many other skills, including helping people who suffer from PTSD and helping track down missing dogs.