In Wetumpka, Alabama, Wetumpka Elementary School’s staff listing has a unique member, and she’s no ordinary employee.
Meet Popcorn, the four-legged paraprofessional who has been part of the school’s community for almost nine years.
Unlike her human colleagues, Popcorn has been on a first-name basis with the students, offering comfort and companionship.
To celebrate Popcorn’s remarkable career and retirement, the school threw a party, bidding farewell to one of its most cherished staff members.
Popcorn’s handler, Brandi Reiske, shared that while the students are thrilled for Popcorn, they can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness as they say goodbye.
Popcorn’s job description over the years?
Expert stress-buster and anxiety ally. Reiske explained how Popcorn, with her uncanny ability to sense emotions, has provided invaluable support to students.
Popcorn has been there to lend a paw when needed, whether it’s a comforting cuddle or a gentle presence. Reiske even recounted a remarkable incident when Popcorn detected a diabetic concern, showing the extraordinary bond between the facility dog and the students.
Ashley Taylor, program director for Service Dogs Alabama, summed it up perfectly:
“They count on her.”
With Popcorn officially retiring, Wetumpka Elementary School is on the lookout for a replacement facility dog, hoping to have one ready for the next school year.
Popcorn made history in 2015 as the first dog in Service Dogs Alabama’s pilot program placed in a school.
Taylor highlighted the positive impact, with improved math scores, reading levels, and a decrease in disciplinary actions.
The success of this initiative led to a broader partnership with the Alabama State Department of Education, and currently, there are 42 working facility dogs across the state.
As Popcorn transitions into well-deserved retirement, Reiske, who has shared the title of paraprofessional with her, will be Popcorn’s forever home.
Describing the Springer Spaniel as her best friend, Reiske emphasized the extraordinary bond they share, stating:
“It’s a bond like I’ve not had before.”
For those inspired by Popcorn’s story, Service Dogs Alabama actively seeks volunteers, especially puppy raisers. If you’re ready to make a paw-sitive impact, consider applying on their website.