CLINTON — With a wag of her tail and a friendly attitude, Kinley greets students of Whittier Elementary School every morning and afternoon.
The school’s newest therapy dog received her certification in mid-October. Since then, the children have been getting to know her, reading their books next to her and asking to see her.
“She’s well received by the students and the staff,” Title I teacher Amy Struble said. “You can hear them saying hello to her in the hall.”
Amy and her family brought Kinley into their home 1 1/2 years ago. Not long after, Amy’s boss asked if she was willing to have the yellow Labrador retriever trained as a therapy dog. The school’s PTA funded her training.
Kinley attended training with Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education Services in Concordia, Kan. She spent two weeks being trained by inmates at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility. Amy said the inmates with the best standing were allowed to participate in the program.
“It’s a way for the inmates to give back to society,” Amy said.
Amy and secretary Jonelle Kettler attended a week of training. They took Kinley on outings to assisted living facilities, Pizza Hut, the Ellsworth Correctional Facility and other places. Amy said it was great to see Kinley interact with the inmate who trained her.
As a certified therapy dog, which is recognizable by the vest she wears, Kinley is trained in a variety of commands and is allowed to go into any business or facility. Amy said the vest is actually an important part of Kinley’s job.
“She knows she’s working,” Amy said. “It’s like me putting on my work clothes. She knows it’s time to go to work when we put it on her.”
Since Kinley started at the school, Amy has noticed her having a positive impact on the students. She said that one student who was afraid of dogs now asks for her. In another instance, Kinley walked a girl to class when she was feeling nervous about being new at the school.
“She’s a dog with a lot of personality,” Amy said. “She’s fun.”
Amy added that Kinley gets along with everybody, including the other therapy dog, Teddy. Kinley’s family, including Amy and husband Steve, and daughters Kate, 13, and Abby, 9, is proud of her.
“I think they think it’s neat,” Amy said.