Two Labrador dogs have taken on a unique job at a rural Southland school.
Five-year-old Doug and 10-month-old Molly attend school every day and act as support dogs to staff and pupils.
They are owned by Northern Southland College deputy principal Janelle Eason, who first started bringing Doug to school after Covid-19 hit.
‘‘People can be feeling a bit rubbish, students can be upset, Doug comes around and sits beside them.
‘‘A wee wet nose poking you for a pet can release a lot of tension,’’ she said.
Doug proved such a success in raising morale he was now being joined by Molly, who was learning the ropes.
‘‘She is learning how to go into the classroom — she is still a bit shy,’’ Miss Eason said.
Northern Southland College has a role of just more than 200 pupils from year 7 to 13.
While the pupils liked the dogs, it was the teachers who loved them, Miss Eason said.
‘‘Our job is not all sunshine and rainbows.
‘‘If you have a fairly rough class Doug is intuitive when something is not right and will come over for a pat, which lowers stress and increases endorphins.’’
The need for such support was on the rise for teachers who were on the frontline of societal change, she said.
‘‘I started teaching in 2008 and there has been exponential change since then.
‘‘Teachers are not just imparting information — they are there as a sounding board, a parent figure and a social worker.’’
Like the teachers at the end of the week, the dogs were exhausted as they took on the emotions around them and were ‘‘wiped out’’ by their supporting role, Miss Eason said.
There were no plans to add more dogs to the team.