Therapy dogs enhancing student wellbeing
At Carinity schools, an extraordinary bond has formed between students and some special classmates.
Three therapy dogs – Tarmac, Maverick, and Chickpea – have been trained to provide support and comfort to students, resulting in a remarkable impact on their overall school experience.
Tarmac, a nine-month-old black labrador, joined Carinity Education Southside at the beginning of the school term. He has been trained as an assistance dog by Empower Therapy Dogs since he was eight weeks old.
Deputy Principal Lyndsey Sharp and youth worker Lisa Daanen have undertaken further training to become Tarmac’s handlers, ensuring he brings continued safety and solace to the school community.
Lyndsey is a firm believer that interactions with a therapy dog can help students regulate their own emotions.
“Some of our students have a history of trauma, and the physical contact, mindfulness and social connection that our therapy dogs provide can help calm a student’s nervous system.”
Principal Leann Faint said Tarmac has had a positive impact on the school in a short time.
“Tarmac has a calming effect on both staff and students. He intuitively knows when a young person needs support and will seek out those who need his attention. His enthusiasm for his job is contagious! He gets very excited when he arrives at Southside,” Leann said.
Tarmac has already had a profound impact on the school community. Susan, a Year 7 student, believes Tarmac has been “so good for our school”.
“Just seeing him each day brings me joy and makes me smile. We even get to pat him a lot! He stays in the middle of the classroom, and we all show him affection. Having him around makes me want to come to school more. He’s truly made a difference for me,” Susan said.
Tarmac’s influence extends beyond the students. Julie Cavanagh, a teacher at Southside, admits she was initially sceptical of having a therapy dog on campus, but she quickly realised the positive impact Tarmac had on the school environment.
“Being a dog lover myself, I found Tarmac’s presence to be calming, and interacting with him brought me joy and comfort. Tarmac’s delightful and serene aura has made teaching and learning much easier, prompting me to request that he attends my classes,” Julie said.
Maverick’s ongoing training with Laura Tingle at Be Good Dog Training has honed his skills in providing support and unconditional acceptance to the students.
School Principal, Lyn Harland, says Maverick has had a big influence on students.
“He brings a sense of comfort, encourages attendance, and serves as a cuddly companion for the children. Maverick’s non-judgmental nature fosters a positive learning environment and instils a sense of security and well-being in the students.”
Chickpea, a beloved labradoodle therapy dog, has been an essential member of the Carinity Education Shalom school community in Townsville for over a year.
Accredited as a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs Australia, Chickpea has captured the hearts of students and staff alike with her gentle and affectionate nature.
Toni Simmonds, Head of Primary at Shalom, explained that Chickpea has made an incredible impact on the school community.
“Chickpea has been such a positive addition to our school. We’ve seen firsthand the effects Chickpea has on improving attendance, engagement, and helping maintain positive relationships amongst staff and students.”