Burgess Hill school dog pining for classes to start again

Teaching Dog. Bertie Button, the resident teaching dog at Manor Fields Primary School.Pictured with Bethany Fuller (7) , Charlie Newton (7), Year 2 teacher, Sally Baldwin and pupils back L-R Mckenzie Box (6), Bethany Fuller (7) and Julian Franklin (7) .Burgess Hill.  Picture : Liz Pearce. 220714. SUS-140722-155153008
Teaching Dog. Bertie Button, the resident teaching dog at Manor Fields Primary School.Pictured with Bethany Fuller (7) , Charlie Newton (7), Year 2 teacher, Sally Baldwin and pupils back L-R Mckenzie Box (6), Bethany Fuller (7) and Julian Franklin (7) .Burgess Hill. Picture : Liz Pearce. 220714. SUS-140722-155153008

A little dog who has proved

himself a star by helping children to learn to read is now pining for his young pals.

Tiny Bertie Button is a ‘school dog’ and regularly spends his days at Manor Field County Primary School in Burgess Hill.

But now - in the heart of the long summer school holidays - the puzzled pooch has been left wondering where all his playmates have gone.

“He’s definitely thinking ‘Roll on September,” said head teacher Kit Messenger.

In term time, two-year-old Bertie takes part in all sorts of school activities, from sports day to art classes - and to listening to children read.

“He’s quite good at looking interested,” said Kit.

“He’s proved an inspiration in not only helping pupils to learn to read and write - they all queue up to proudly show Bertie their work - but he’s also inspired the youngsters’ creativity,” said Kit. “The number of different pieces of writing he has inspired over the past two years runs into thousands.”

The children frequently send Bertie cards and emails and Bertie is often one of the ‘prizes’ at school charity raffles: winning ticket holders get to take Bertie for a walk in the park, or get a chance to sit next to him at lunch.

Bertie also helps to celebrate pupils’ achievements. He brings certificates into class in recognition of their good work and he says ‘Well done’ by performing a series of tricks.

They include a victory ‘rollover’, high-fives, a dance twirl, playing dead on the command of ‘bang’, and the children’s favourite - pressing a buzzer with his paw.

Bertie is also a source of support for children going through tough times and they find it easier to talk about their problems, said Kit, if Bertie is around.

“I’ve been really warmed by just how much the children enjoy having him here and the different elements of learning that he has helped,” said Kit. “The staff adore him too.”

One teacher had suffered for years with a severe dog phobia which had a big impact on her life, stopping her from visiting places. But now, from not being able to be in the same room as Bertie, he has now ‘cured’ her to the extent that she even loves giving him a cuddle.

Bertie wears a special coat when he’s at school saying ‘Bertie Button Education Assistance Dog.’ “He seems to know that he’s ‘on duty’ when he’s wearing it,” said Kit.

But when he goes home with Kit each evening, it’s a different story. “Once his coat is taken off he’s a bit more frenetic. He’s not naughty but he’s a bit more lively.

“He seems to know that when he’s got his coat on he has to behave.”

And he behaves to a ‘T’ at school - so much so that two other schools in West Sussex have now decided to get ‘school dogs.’

Bertie, a Shih Tzu-poodle cross, was specially chosen by Kim for his temperament and the fact that his fur is hypoallergenic. He underwent intensive training - and has now proudly held the title of ‘school dog’ since he was 16 weeks old.

“He brings a sense of community to the school which is very important for Manor Field,” said Kit. “The children say ’we have got a school dog’ and they are very proud.”