MOOREVILLE • Mooreville Elementary School has a new therapy dog to serve the students on campus.

School counselor Belinda Tutor has owned the Australian Shepherd, Biscuit, for nearly two years.

Tutor saw the power of therapy animals as her grandson underwent lots of surgeries as a child, and decided to have Biscuit serve as a therapy dog.

Biscuit has only been at the school for two weeks so far, but students have already bonded with him. He will be on campus for two to three days each week, Tutor said.

Biscuit is a certified therapy dog. He completed Comfort Creatures of North Mississippi’s “Love on a Leash” training in June, which teaches general obedience and other skills. He also passed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test and went through 10 supervised visits in environments with children and at assisted living environments with older adults.

The dog will visit classrooms when invited to participate in lessons or events, like on Wednesday when Tutor was returning a student from an individual therapy session to the classroom and a teacher approached her.

“There was a group of students in the hallway doing a small group reading lesson,” Tutor said. “And she asked if they could read their word cards to Biscuit, so he’ll do little things like that.”

Any time a teacher feels like Biscuit’s presence could motivate students or raise their level of interest, Tutor said she and Biscuit will be there.

He’ll also be available for small-group or individual therapy sessions and in cases of student trauma or crisis. For example, Tutor said if a parent isn’t in the best mood while driving their child to school and that child gets out of the car crying, that’s where Biscuit will come in.

“Biscuit would be here for them to come in and cry and pet and love,” Tutor said. “A dog just has a way of soothing, so when they’re petting the dog that’s soothing to the child.”

Tutor and Biscuit often walk through the hallways as students line up for lunch or breaks.

“He’ll just go right up by them and they’ll pet him as we walk by,” Tutor said. “It’s like an instinct to him that that’s what he’s here for.”

Ava Ratliff, a 6-year-old first-grader, said her favorite thing about Biscuit is “that he’s fluffy.”

“I think it’s good because he gets to walk around the school and let kids pet him,” Ratliff said.

Eli Summerlin, a 7-year-old first-grader, said he enjoys seeing Biscuit while waiting in the car-rider line after school.

“I just like when he comes by and I get to pet him,” Summerlin said.

Biscuit has already helped Tutor build a bridge between herself and the students, making them more comfortable with talking to her.

“He’s definitely going to add a lot to our school. I think he’s going to be good for our counseling program,” Tutor said. “With Biscuit, students can come in and relax, build a relationship and learn what a true relationship is through the use of an animal.”

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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