Using dogs to lower anxiety around learning and assisting in maintaining a positive attitude to school work is a fairly new approach to education around the world. So why did I think it would work? I have experienced it myself.
When I was 13 years old my mother took me for a check-up. The doctor found a skin flap above my eye that he wanted to get checked out. That very day we were at the specialist being told that it was very rare for a 13-year-old to have skin cancer. But it was a skin cancer none the less.
At around the same time I managed to talk to my parents into getting Hamish, the friendliest, happiest Jack Russel in the world.
After the cancer was removed I think myself and my parents were still in shock for a while. It wasn’t very life threatening but it was a surprise. I found it very difficult to concentrate on school work and was anxious about slipping behind. I remember many hours of across my bed, my desk and my floor (I am a very messy person) trying to catch up on school work, and amongst all the chaos there was always a relaxed, fat Jack Russell sleeping among the books. The fact that the dog could snooze so easily made me feel better about my teenage challenges.
Fast forward to year 12 and my health was no better. I ended up being hospitalised by complications from glandular fever while all my school mates were sitting their final exams.
The stress, anxiety and fear for my future after missing those exams made my stress levels sky rocket and slowed my recovery. I spent a great deal of time in bed sleeping to get my strength back.
Through it all was Hamish. Ready to snooze when I needed to. Ready to listen when I needed to talk. Ready to snuggle when I worried and ready to do his best to remind me to be happy for the simple things.
Although I now hold a masters and I am now a teacher, studying never came easy to me and learning was made harder due to intermittent illness. Through it all I had Hamish. My happy little guardian. His ability to relax and his happy attitude to life helped me so much through my teens.
Now I run Canine Comprehension and I hope out Education Therapy Dogs provide our students the same ray of hope that Hamish provided me.
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