The UK has a strong tradition of volunteering with many people giving their time to help and support their local communities. One UK charity, Pets as Therapy, involves teamwork, the partnership between owner and their four-legged friend. Volunteers together with their pets visit hospitals, hospices, residential homes, day care centres, prisons and schools enhancing the lives of those living with mental and physical illness as well as loneliness. This is the story of Rufus, a Pets as Therapy dog who visits a primary school as part of the ‘read2dogs’ scheme.
My name is Rufus, I am a fun loving, gentle three-year-old labradoodle and I go to primary school one afternoon per week to listen to children read to me. We relax on beanbags and the children pet me as they read.
The first day at my school I was in reception waiting to be shown around and all I could hear was a little girl crying along the corridor. The head teacher explained that a new four-year-old had just started at school, she had never left her mum and never been to playschool or nursery. She did not speak very good English. My owner suggested I could meet the little girl and thank goodness, as soon as she saw me, she STOPPED CRYING! Phew. She stroked me and calmed down and was able to return to her classroom.
Another of my readers had never stroked a dog before and he SO loved animals. He actually made funny noises and shed a few tears the first few times as he was so thrilled to meet me. He has trouble containing his emotions generally and can be over enthusiastic. However, he is an amazing reader and is now much calmer.
I have done one year now at my school and will be returning in September as everyone is so friendly. I have to say the children’s reading has improved so much. One particular little chap could hardly say any of his words at first as he found reading so stressful, but somehow, just sitting quietly with me, he has found a new confidence and is reading really well.
To find out more about Pets a Therapy visit their website https://petsastherapy.org/