A secondary school in Dunboyne, Co Meath, is enjoying the benefits of its newest arrival - a three-year-old black Labrador retriever named Travis.

The dog joined the ranks of St Peter's Community College last September as part of a 'Community Dog' pilot scheme from the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Donnacha McCarrick, who teaches Maths and Geography at the St Peter's, is responsible for Travis and said he has made a massive impact since his arrival.

"You wouldn’t believe the difference he’s made," he said.

"The reaction he gets just walking through the corridor … even when the pupils just see him."

The school has more than 1,200 students, but Travis has a calming affect particularly on students with autism.

"They love him, and he just cheers them up," Mr McCarrick said.

Travis starts his school day like everyone - he arrives in the morning and leaves after the last class.

He is always by Mr McCarrick's side.

"He spends time in class, the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) unit, with smaller groups, popping into classes. He is always by my side and does not greet students until he's told to go say hello."

So far, two dogs, including Travis, have been placed in schools as part of the programme and a third is being planned.

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind General Manager Tim O'Mahony said so far the feedback has been "very, very positive".

"The dogs are having a huge impact," he added.

He said that because the dog is placed in a school setting, it helps multiple people and is of huge benefit.

"It’s important too that the dog doesn't become a mascot, but provides a functioning support," he said.

Mr O'Mahony said there is high demand for guide dogs and assistance dogs is great.

Currently, there are around 70 families who have children with autism and who are waiting on a dog under the IGB's Assistance Dog Programme.

With Guide Dog Day coming up on 7 May, Mr O'Mahony is urging people to do all they can to support the cause.

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