A new addition to Pineville Elementary leaves everyone smiling

River is the new student at Pineville Elementary.
River is the new student at Pineville Elementary.(Jamie Leigh Reichert)
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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PINEVILLE, W.Va. (WVVA) -There’s a new addition to Pineville Elementary. It’s a yellow Labrador named “River!”

His first day of school was Wednesday, September 14th.

“For the kids, this is such a special gift for them because this gives them a reason to come to school every day. It’s an incentive to come to school every day. They know that he is gonna be at the truck loading area, or at the drop-off area. That gives them something to look forward to,” said Melanie Keefer, Principal of Pineville Elementary.

He was placed in Pineville as part of Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice’s “Friends with Paws” therapy program.

“We are wanting to do 20 dogs in the next year. We’ve done almost ten this year. Then we are going to try to do ten more next year,” said First Lady Cathy Justice.

Keefer says in addition to creating a cheerful environment for students, River can also help them academically.

For example, he can be a great listener for students who are practicing their reading skills.

In addition to Pineville, schools in Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties are receiving dogs this fall.

For the Justices, who are big canine fans themselves, the program was a no-brainer solution for alleviating anxiety and improving attendance.

“Can you just look at the smile on my face? To see the students come by, pet the dog on the head, give him a fist bump and he’ll put his paw out and give them a fist bump. They are really relating to the dog and plus when he does a fist bump he gets a treat. That’s good oh it’s wonderful!” said First Lady Cathy Justice.

River was the fourth dog to be put into schools by First Lady Cathy Justice.

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