Regular readers of my posts will be aware that I have purchased a puppy for the purposes of training him to be our school therapy dog. The theory is that the pup is mine and I will take him to puppy classes and have him trained up to be a therapy dog. You can read the original post giving details of how the breed was chosen, his remit in school and his first week with the children here.
Time for an update. Doodles has now been in school for half a term. From his point of view he is having the time of his life! The staff adore him and there is no shortage of people willing to take him for a walk. One wonderful TA is battling an illness of her own and takes him for two walks a day to clear her head and to have a little puppy therapy of her own. That in itself is a huge success. Other staff come to my door for a puppy cuddle if they are feeling a little down or a little upset about something, Doodles works his magic.
Moving on to the children. Key Stage 5, like most teenagers will sit around at lunch time and play with their technology if they are given half a chance. What self respecting 17 year old wants to run up and down and burn off some energy? Introduce a puppy into that scenario and everything changes. Now we have queues of youngsters wanting to take the puppy on to the grass. There is so much interest I have to limit his exercise or he will be worn to a frazzle!
Our school has an unusually boisterous key stage 3 group of children. They have joined us from mainstream schools during this academic year and are just getting to grips with the quieter way of life at our special school. To our absolute delight (and theirs) we have found that a Doodles cuddle works wonders for restoring peace and harmony.
Recently we held our Summer show and this is a very grand affair. It is inclusion in every sense of the word. Every single child takes part in the show irrespective of illness, disability or any behaviour challenges they may face. One young man in key stage 5 was worried about joining the rehearsals, it is not his thing. Doodles to the rescue! The pup went on stage for the rehearsals and so did the young man. Doodles was a bit of a show stealer and I'm pleased to say he wasn't required for the actual performance, his mission was complete for the day. I am told by the choreographer that he will have a role in the Christmas show so we have that to look forward to.
One of Doodles' real talents is to cheer up children. As he is still only 5 months old there is only so much he can do with the children. When he hears a child cry we set off to find the child and see if we can help. Sometimes there will be tears of frustration in which case Doodles will be used as a reward for perseverance. Other times a child might just be sad and Doodles snuggles right in there for a cuddle. Its like magic! Instantly tears are stopped and it's smiles all round. We also have a young man who is on the Autistic Spectrum and is not always school ready when he arrives in the morning. His first job is to come to my office and stroke the puppy. A smile is guaranteed and this sets the tone for the day for that young man.
There are some incidental benefits to having the puppy in school that we hadn't actually considered. For example, a little boy in year 1 goes the long way round to the hall for his lunch so that he can see Doodles on his travels. This is excellent as he is in a manual wheelchair and he is developing independence skills and also strengthening his arms as he travels around school. What a bonus!
Perhaps the greatest success has to be attributed to a tiny little tot who is just about to enter our reception class from our nursery. She is only 4 years old and has communication and physical challenges to deal with. She is totally enamoured with Doodles and will do anything to see him. Such is the power of this attraction that she has taken a few steps unaided in an attempt to follow Doodles. This is the stuff of dreams! This same little girl can also now say two words, 'Hello Doodles'. I think he has earned his position in school just from his work with this little girl.
All in all Doodles is loving being in school surrounded by the children and staff and the benefits are varied and many. When he returns in September he will be proudly wearing his necker emblazoned with the school's badge. I know a lot of children will have missed him!
Here is Doodles in a rare moment of uncertainty as he comes face to face with Trevor the school tortoise for the first time. One of them was scared and it wasn't Trevor!
Thank you for reading.