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Therapy dog Layla helps Central State students thrive

Therapy dog Layla has been supporting students at Central State School since she was 10 weeks old.

Therapy dog Layla is more than a four-legged friend to the 58 students at Bundaberg Central State School, she’s also a “provider of unconditional love”.

Layla is a good listener and has the unique ability to turn a frown upside down within seconds.

Therapy dogs are becoming more popular in schools around the Bundaberg Region.

They are used to support children with social and emotional learning needs, which in turn can assist with literacy development.

Layla is a purpose-bred Groodle-Golden Retriever-cross Poodle. She's been helping to support students at Central State School since she was just 10 weeks old, and is now in her third year at school.

Layla’s owner-handler and Central State School teacher, Lisa Tree, says having the four-legged friend in the classroom makes a big difference in the students’ lives as she provides a listening ear and “unconditional love” to each student.

“Layla is wonderful for our kids because she is an extra provider of unconditional love,” Lisa said.

“Layla doesn’t mind whether they are great at spelling, or whether math is their favourite thing, she is happy to greet them every day with her big smile and her big waggy tail, so it’s another person in their life that is always overjoyed to see them.

“She is a wonderful support and she knows when the kids aren’t having a great day.

“It makes all the difference for them to be able to go and check in with Layla, and have some away time and have some love time.

“And she does pretty well out of the arrangement as well; she is the most patted, most cuddled, most loved dog in Bundaberg, we think.”

Therapy dog Layla
Summer Anderson, Connor Fischer, principal Frank Nastasi, Justice Benecke, Zamali Thompson, Zoe Bennet, Chunni Connelly at Bundaberg Central State School with therapy dog Layla.

Therapy dog Layla helps relieve stress

Everyday life worries and stresses vanish for both students and teachers at Central State School as they are greeted by Layla the therapy dog.

“It’s nice thing to have a big pair of understanding eyes looking at you and saying ‘yes today is a tough day’,” Lisa said.

“She is a very sufficient welfare officer, who looks after us all.”

Year 4 student Jessica Doyle said Layla was like a best friend, who also helped to keep her focused on her schoolwork.

“Sometimes when I am feeling sad, I usually come over to Layla and give her a pat and she comforts me,” Jessica said.

“If I am a bit slow at getting my work done, she will come and sit at my feet and remind me to keep going.”

Central State School principal Frank Nastasi said having therapy dog Layla in the classroom benefited students in a number of ways, including helping them through anxiety and helping them to know it’s important to look after themselves as well as each other.

“Especially this year with COVID-19, there is a whole lot of anxiety around,” Frank said.

“And Layla is a wonderful support for our kids, she can pick up on those cues from the kids as well, and if she notices the kids are feeling a little anxious she will wonder over closer to that child and give them support.”

Frank said Layla is the connection from home to school for many of the students, and she helped with the daily transition for all year levels.

“It’s a little bit of home, here at school for the 58 kids we have.

“And this year Layla has been part of our transitioning into Prep for our 2021 students, where the future students have already had a chance to meet Layla, and it all helps rest their minds before coming to school next year.”

Apart from the four days at Central State School Layla lives with Lisa, her husband and three children. She has fun going to markets, chasing the chickens and generally loving and being loved by her family.

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