PUPILS at Ruskin Junior School welcomed a special guest for the afternoon yesterday when red setter Ruby dropped in.

The eight-year-old bitch and her owner, Donna Simpkins, have been visiting the school in Wordsworth Drive one or two afternoons a week for a year after joining up with the Pets As Therapy charity scheme.

Pets As Therapy pets visit people in hospitals and homes and other venues to offer a different kind of therapy to the people who need it.

Donna, who works as a Teaching Assistant at Ruskin, said: “Ruby comes in a couple of afternoons a week to see the children.

“Sometimes children find it easier to sit and talk to Ruby rather than talk to other adults about things.

“We can bring her in if there is a child who has had a particularly bad day, and they can just sit and talk to her.

“They love having her in, they just enjoy stroking her and playing with her.”

Donna, who has two other dogs at home as well as two children, decided to join Pets As Therapy after reading about what the charity did.

She said: “I read about the charity or saw it on the television and I thought it would be something I would really like to do.

“Ruby has always been brilliant around my children, because she had to be. She’s a big dog and you can’t have them jumping up at children, so she was always very calm.

“She’s so good with children, and we would be lost without her.”

Since Ruby has visited the school, many of the children, particularly those with special learning needs including autism, have benefited from her presence.

Donna said: “talking to Ruby can give that emotional thing that some children can find difficult.

“She is non-judgemental and I think that’s what the children like.”

Emma Peerun, who runs the Beehive Unit for the youngsters with learning difficulties and autism, has been delighted with the effect Ruby has had on the children.

She said: “We love having Ruby in and she’s a really important part of our school.

“Some children who have issues with speech and language have really come out of their shell when they speak to Ruby.

“Some of them struggle with communicating but with Ruby they tell her what they like and things, which is a real change and lovely to see.”

To find out more about Pets As Therapy, visit www.petsastherapy.org.

For more information about Ruskin Junior School, visit www.ruskinjuniorschool.com.