A beautiful Labrador called Tess who was deemed ‘too friendly’ to become a Guide Dog, has found a new outlet for her love of people. She is now a Pets As Therapy dog for around 60 students with severe disabilities at the Fisher Road School on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
From the moment Tess met the children, she has made (and continues to make) a huge difference.
“Tess brings lots of love, joy and calm to the children’s lives,” says Ruth Rogers, who is the school’s Assistant Principal and primary carer for Tess when she’s not on school duty.
“For one student, the bond he is establishing with Tess is helping him to develop his speech and to stay settled in situations when he’d normally find it hard to sit still.”
The simple act of grooming Tess has provided an unexpected benefit. With each stroke of the brush, the children are learning how to count and know an animal’s body parts, as well as developing co-ordination skills and body control. The school has found that Tess’ presence on school bus excursions helps to calm nerves. She is also helping the older students learn to follow directions and take on responsibility by taking Tess for walks.
Her lovable nature is proving to be a real ice-breaker when new parents visit the school. “Always joyful, Tess is a pleasant surprise and is there to greet them.,” says Ruth. “Explaining Tess’ role helps to ease any anxieties and introduce the parents to how the school might benefit their child.”
Pets As Therapy is a free community service which has been offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for over 30 years.
All PAT dogs are trained at the Guide Dogs Centre. As well as basic obedience, the dogs learn to walk quietly on the lead and, if required, next to a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, a walking stick or a frame.
Donate today and help to train more amazing Pets As Therapy dogs like Tess.