Every year, third graders at Wessington Springs Elementary School read a book about a police officer and his canine partner titled Aero and Officer Mike: Police Partners written by Joan Plummer Russell.
Reading teacher Kim Orth reached out to Jerauld County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Sheldon to see if he might be available to bring the story of police service dog partnership from the pages of the book to life.
“Kim asked me to bring our Jerauld County police dog, Mack, to school several years ago and now, we make it a point t to do it every year when third graders read that book,” Sheldon said.
When Paul and Mack enter the gym at the elementary school, Sheldon said that the first order of business is to explain that Mack is not a pet.
“He is a tool, just like a radio or a gun — not a pet,” Sheldon said. “I make it clear to the kids that he is nice, sociable and not going after anybody, but he is a tool and they cannot pet him.”
In addition talking to the children about what police officers and police dogs do, Sheldon said he demonstrates how Mack works for the sheriff’s office.
“When we first walk in the kids ooh and aww, especially as they see him get right to work,” Deputy Sheldon recounts. “The kids enjoy watching Mack find drugs hidden in a bag that I bring and they especially like it when I give him a toy and swing him around to show the students his strength.”
In addition to introducing the third graders to Mack, Deputy Sheldon said that the demo serves another purpose.
“If kids can see we are approachable, they get to know us on a more personal level and will feel comfortable letting us know if something’s going on. It helps build important relationships.”