A therapy dog who helps nervous children go to school is in need of urgent £7,000 surgery after injuring his leg.
Six-year-old Labrador Skippy was playing on a field at Maundene Primary School in Chatham when he seriously damaged his cruciate ligament.
His owner and teacher at the school, Chloe Jasmine-Rattle, said: “He loves going outside and playing ball and he goes out every break time to play with the kids.
“On that particular day they were just throwing the ball like normal and he just must have pulled his leg.
“One of the kids noticed he’d hurt himself. He then couldn’t put his leg down and it progressed from there.”
Teachers had to carry him to the car as he was in “too much pain” to walk.
The registered therapy dog has since had a tibial plateau levelling osteotomy on one of his legs – a major surgical procedure to fix ligament ruptures in knee joints.
But an X-ray found he needs the same procedure on his other leg.
Chloe said: “The hardest thing for him is he’s not used to being in a room all day by himself cooped up.
“Since the operation we’ve had to put him in a crate which just hasn’t been something that he’s ever been used to.”
Chloe started bringing Skippy to the school three years ago during lockdown.
After noticing how much he was helping the children that came in at the time, she decided to get him registered and got permission from the headteacher at the time to bring him in permanently.
“The kids that came in over that lockdown just benefited so much from having him there to sit with or go and play with,” she explained.
Skippy helps reception children who are nervous about coming into school with his “calmness and serenity.”
He teaches children who are scared of dogs how to approach them, while also reassuring them that some animals are gentle and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Skippy also works with children who have experienced trauma and helps them come into school when they are having a bad day.
“He loves kids more than anybody else, he’ll lay with them for hours,” Chloe said.
“He comes in every day and greets the children either out at the gate or at the classroom door.
“He loves going to the library and laying with the kids and reading books. Kids that sometimes struggle with school come and sit with him and take him out onto the field and play ball.”
Another teacher at the school, Rebecca O'Connor, said: “He’s great with those children and he’s quite good at helping them to regulate their emotions.
“But now he’s not going to be able to play like he used to and he’s not going to be able to really play fetch again.”
A gofundme has been set up to raise money for Skippy’s treatment. Donations can be made here.
Rebecca said: “We all miss him terribly and the support he gives our most vulnerable children.
“Any help at all will be appreciated by not only Skippy’s owners, but also by the rest of the school community.
“We know times are hard, especially as it is near Christmas, but if possible, please help us raise some money so Skippy can come back to us.”