I would like to introduce you to Doodles the Schnoodle. Doodles is our school trainee therapy puppy. He is 15 weeks old today and has just completed his first full week in school.
Here he is being introduced to one of the older students.
I have watched with interest as many of the mainstream schools in our locality have introduced therapy dogs to their schools. The high school next door to us has two therapy dogs and I began to do some research around the subject. I found that they have many uses and I could see how valuable one would be for our children who have various medical and physical special needs. How to convince our Head Teacher?
I broached the subject with her and she went off to conduct her own research. A couple of conversations later I can report that we have a thoroughly enlightened head teacher and she was keen on the idea. Between us we decided that I would buy the puppy and he would be mine and would go to dog training and obedience classes as soon as he is old enough. He would also attend Archie therapy in Blackpool to train to be a school therapy dog. All of this would be rather expensive but it would be worth it as the children would love him and they would gain so much from having him around.
The first task was to identify the breed. I knew we needed a pup that did not shed hair so the children wouldn’t be allergic to him. He needed to be small enough so that he wouldn’t frighten them but not so small that he would be frightened of wheelchairs and all the kit that is associated with our very special children. He had to be super intelligent and easy to train, and he had to be cute and cuddly but that’s a given. After much research and cooing over puppies I finally decided on a puppy from Manchester. He’s a quarter schnauzer and three quarters poodle and fits the requirements exactly.
I took him into school last Monday morning for the very first time. He was an instant hit with all the staff and he was formally introduced as our newest member of staff at the weekly briefing. In came the children and I slowly began to take him around the classes. All the children wanted to hold him and stroke him and cuddle him. He began to work his own special brand of magic on the children immediately. One of our very youngest children who has limited independent movement was motivated to lift her arm to try to stroke him. Another young poppet attempted to follow him down the corridor even though she’s only just taking her first steps. The older students were smitten to say the least. They produced their best work in record time so that they would be allowed to play with Doodles as a treat. Another young lad went away and did his own research and informed me that dogs can’t have chocolate or grapes as they will kill him. Who knew? A reluctant speaker in key stage 3 launched into a sentence describing how black the puppy is and how cuddly he is. Doodles was inspiring everyone although he didn’t know it. Doodles himself was also gaining much from the experience. He had lots of company and lots of cuddles. He was learning to be gentle with the children and he had ready made play mates at all hours of the day. In fact, the whole school had a feel good factor’ about the place.
Doodles has a large job specification it must be said. This is his remit as he becomes fully trained:
listen to children read without interrupting (we’re a long way from that!)
calm anxious children
prevent meltdowns or temper tantrums
give cuddles to upset children
be used as a reward for children who have worked hard
encourage speech and language, be used for descriptive writing
teach children how to care for animals
calm those who are frightened of dogs, teach respect for animals
collective ownership of a pet for children who don’t have one
put a smile on the faces of staff
By the time Friday came around Doodles was an established member of staff. Everyone who visited school popped in to see the trainee therapy pup and he loved the attention. He had already begun to fulfil his job description as he had made a child stop crying when she hurt herself. He was run ragged by key stage 5 who are almost camping out in my office. The little puppy was shattered but very happy! Here he is 5 minutes after arriving home.
Thank you for reading.