ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. -- Clifford the Big Red Dog is very popular with kindergarten and first-grade students, but an elementary school in Virginia has a real-life version that could give him a run for his money, WHSV reports.
Gabriel is a 200-pound mastiff who serves as a therapy dog at River Bend Elementary School.
"I've had Gabe since he was a puppy. He's about four-years-old now. I find that days that he is here, just things are more relaxed," said Wendee Constable, who teaches kindergarten. .
This is Mrs. Constable's second therapy dog after her older mastiff "retired" and enjoys life at home now.
She co-owns Gabriel with a local breeder.
He doesn't only help those in her kindergarten classroom but children throughout the entire school.
"I've been very blessed to have Gabe work with several of my children out of my classroom this year, and he has taken them when they've been in need for just some comfort," said Gerri Ziegler, a first-grade teacher.
This year students can write letters to Gabriel about why they need extra time with the massive canine.
If they are chosen, they get to spend some one-on-one time with the gentle giant.
"It's just changed everything. They come back ready and reset and relaxed and just more at peace with being with themselves after being with him," Ziegler said.
While Gabriel may be shocking to some, he's just a regular part of the classroom for these children who love on him and take on extra responsibilities
"He's been just a pleasure, and I don't know that he'll ever be ready to retire. He has a whole different mindset," Constable said.
Beyond his role as man's best friend, Gabriel serves another important purpose.
The children learn important lessons about responsibility when they get him water and take him for walks.