Rylee Heathman and Buck are both classmates and best friends navigating the new school year together.
“It’s awesome – [the dog] is making new friends, I’m making new friends throughout the school year, new teacher and all and he’s a really good companion,” Rylee said.
Buck the service dog goes to school with nine year old Rylee to help her manage her disabilities that include anxiety and cerebral palsy. He’s the only service dog in the entire Lompoc Unified School District.
“He helps me if there’s things going on, if there’s like fire drills and stuff, if the alarm goes off he helps me if I get a little startled and stuff,” Rylee explained.
Last week, the two had what Rylee says was a creepy interaction with a stranger outside of school.
A stranger ripped one of the Velcro patches off Buck’s service vest that doubles as her backpack and walked away.
“I felt really shocked, depressed and upset a little bit because I wasn’t expecting an adult to be stealing something from a child, something that they really need, something that’s really important,” said Rylee.
The Lompoc Unified School District says it’s investigating this incident and are taking it very seriously.
Rylee’s grandmother, LeAnne Woolever is now hoping for the patch to be returned as she says they can be quite expensive to buy again.
“I don’t know what the purpose of that was or why he did that but hopefully by doing this he will think twice about doing something like this again,” Woolever said.
She’d like people to take into account that service dogs are not pets.
“People want to pet and they want to feed him when he has his vest on and he’s been trained to do a specific job and he needs to be able to concentrate and do that job for Rylee.”
The family did not want to share which elementary school Rylee goes to, but ask if you have the patch please return it to the front office.