Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 02-11-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 SMITHFIELD FEBRUARY 11-17, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER SMITHFIELD – A wagging tail and floppy ears are a staple in the hallways at Smithfield High School, where the 7-year-old beagle, Kobe, works as a therapy dog with owner and Alternative Learning Program teacher Kristen Luongo. As a therapy dog, Kobe's presence at SHS since 2018 comforts and supports students with social, emotional and behavioral disabilities as well as stu- dents with targeted plans and medical conditions, said Luongo. Kobe now needs support in return, after a bout of seizures led to the discovery of a possible brain tumor that may be cancerous. Luongo said Kobe experienced his first seizure in December, and his condition contin- ued to worsen despite multiple trips to the veterinarian. "Kids rely on him for comfort, and now they are the ones comforting him," Luongo said. Kobe's health decline was complete- ly out of the blue, Luongo said. Early blood tests showed issues in his liver, which was flushed, but his seizures continued weekly. Kobe went to a specialist who believes the dog may have a brain tumor, but more tests need to be done. If benign, Luongo said she will do anything in her power to help Kobe. Options include surgery or radiation therapy. There are not as many options if the tumor proves cancerous, and Luongo said she will do the best to make the remainder of Kobe's life the best it can be. Kobe goes to school with Luongo every day, and is greeted by the SHS student body with praise and petting. In his classroom, he pads around from student to student, recognizing where there are needs. Kobe has a sixth sense for people who are stressed or need help, Luongo said. "He just knows. I may see a student zoning out or struggling and the next thing you know he's there by their feet. Then you see an arm go down and he'll get a pet," she said. Luongo said Kobe is a familiar sight in the SHS community, from help- ing her coach unified sports leagues to emotionally supporting students in class. She said she's had numerous students tell her how important Kobe's presence was to their success in school. "He's part of the kids' plans now. If they're having a bad day, they can come down to my room and pet him or take him for a walk. He helps so many students. He can calm them down and they are able to go back to class," she said. For that effort, Luongo said she owes Kobe and her students her every effort to bring Kobe back to health. Bills from specialists, an MRI, consultations, medications and more are adding up, she said. "I look at him as more than a ther- apy dog. He's family to me and my students. I will do everything I can to save him," she said. Kobe is on anti-seizure medications to hopefully prevent another incident. She said each seizure requires rehabili- tation time for his brain. The longer the seizure, the longer the rehabilita- tion time, she said, adding that she hopes to prevent seizures and treat the brain tumor so Kobe doesn't have to miss any school. A GoFundMe page for Kobe and Luongo had raised more than $4,000. Find the page by searching "MRI for Kobe-Classroom Therapy Dog." Laughing, Luongo remembered the last pep rally she and Kobe attended where sports coaches were announced to the student body. "Kobe got a standing ovation. I don't know how one little dog could be so popular," she said. For now, Luongo and Kobe are still in school and hoping for positive results from an MRI. She said she is praying for his health. 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