Kiwi was born with the ability to comfort those around him and now, the eight-month-old pup is putting his skills into practice as he becomes Bundaberg State High School's first-ever support dog.
Born in Red Collar Rescue’s foster care, Kiwi was taken in by Bundaberg State High School’s guidance officer Sally Freeman and her family.
Eight months later, he has graduated from training organisation Dog Matters and is the first support dog to put his paws on the pavement at the local high school.
The mini foxy, maltese and poodle mixed breed will be an asset for both students and teachers as he is trained to add comfort and support to those around him.
“Kiwi was just different from the start,” Sally said.
“Even as a pup he searched people out and gave so much love.
“He just innately knew to sit, or play.
“He would pull on his lead towards people of all ages.
“I bought him to school and the students and staff gravitated to him and as mentioned him to them.
“Even to this day when we arrive at school his tail is like a windscreen wiper, he is just so happy!”
Sally said after the initial encounters, she enquired about putting Kiwi to the test to become the first therapy dog at Bundaberg State High School.
“I then did some research on what we needed to do [for Kiwi] to become a school support dog,” she said.
“I put a proposal forward and the school supported me 100 per cent.”
Students see the benefit in having a support dog
Bundaberg State High School students Hayley Asnicar, Karlea Law and Eli Thomas all agreed that having a companion like Kiwi the support dog at school made every day better.
Hayley said Kiwi supported students emotionally.
“Kiwi provides great emotional support and just makes us feel a lot better,” Hayley said.
“Having little cuddles from him is enough to put you in a better mood.”
Karlea agreed saying the little pooch had the ability to brighten each school day.
Eli said all the students and teachers had benefitted from having a support dog at the school.
“Kiwi offers a pretty good atmosphere for any kids who are feeling down and he helps them get back to work and focus better.
“He is a fun, playful, cute little dog and just makes us happy.
“I like his goofy little underbite too!”
Dogs truly are man's best friends
Professional trainer Tenille Williams worked with Kiwi who she said now has the skills to be able to help students when they are in need of time out from daily stresses.
“Now, I know what you're thinking ‘a dog in school? That sounds barking mad!’,” Tenille said.
“But trust me, having a furry friend around can bring a whole lot of benefits that you may not have even considered.
“First and foremost, having a school support dog can do wonders for the mental health of students and staff alike.
“Dogs are natural stressbusters, and just petting them can release feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine in our brains.
“So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork or just having a bad day, spending some quality time with a dog can really lift your spirits.”
Tenille said dogs were also amazing listeners and having a school support dog could also promote socialisation and empathy among students.
She said animals were great at bringing people together and having a dog in the classroom could encourage students to interact with each other and form friendships.
“Sometimes, all we need is someone to talk to who won't judge us or interrupt us mid-sentence,” she said.
“Dogs are perfect for that, they'll sit there and listen to you talk through your problems for as long as you need, without ever complaining or telling you to stop. They're the best secret-keepers too!
“And let's not forget about the sheer joy and fun that a dog can bring to a school.
“Having a school support dog benefits everyone in the school community in so many ways.
“From improving mental health to promoting socialisation and just bringing some happiness and laughter into our lives, a dog is truly a human's best friend.”
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