Friday, Nov. 21, 2008 | midnight
After a long night of work and without any sleep, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police K9 officer Duwayne Layton walked into a cafeteria of hundreds of students Nov. 7 at Marc Kahre Elementary School, 7887 Gowan Road.
The students appreciated Layton for visiting the school to conduct an annual assembly about developing life skills, but the name they yelled out when he arrived was that of his K9 companion:
Layton and Rico, a K9 trained Belgian Malinois, have become part of the family at Kahre. After seven years of volunteering his time with no other objective other than to be a good example and open lines of communication between the students and police officers, Layton is like a celebrity at the school.
During his Nov. 7 visit, Layton talked about having a good sense of humor, responsibility and being prepared.
"Have a good sense of humor even when bad things happen to you," he told the crowd while telling about a tough experience he had after being bit in the arm by a dog, nearly ending his career.
"I had a good attitude about it because I could laugh at myself," he said.
He also encouraged the students to reach their potential in their school work.
"You are more capable than you think you are," he said, noting that anybody can do well in math if they are willing to work hard and ask for help.
After speaking, he let Rico walk up and down the rows of the children sitting on the floor. They all reached out to pet him as Layton yelled out commands directing him in which direction to walk, which he followed in perfect obedience without making a peep.
"Rico is really nice," said Samantha Steger, 9, a fourth grader. "He always lets you pet him and never bites you."
As far as Layton, he's nice too, she said.
"He always brings Rico," she said.
During the assembly while discussing responsibility, Samantha said that the skill means to "do your best and not to drop out of school."
She also said that she learned from Layton that it's important to respect people and animals.
Having Layton visit the school means more to Principal Glenda Plaster than she said she could express.
"Since officer Layton started coming, several children tell us that they study harder because officer Layton said to," she said. "There are some students we're concerned about that we don't feel we can always reach, but officer Layton is able to reach them."
Layton said he is happy to visit the school because the students are good kids and he wants to develop healthy relationships between police and the public at an early age.
"Often police are seen in a negative light," Layton said. "This is a way to see that we're real people just like their moms and dads, and it's OK to say hello. We won't bite."
Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.