They might have only just begun their schooling journeys but two very special staff members have already sent tails wagging.
In a Sydney Catholic Schools first, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Oatley and St Michael’s Catholic Primary School Meadowbank both introduced wellbeing dogs into their school communities last week.
St Joseph’s welcomed the adorable Winnie into their school, while the loveable Micky is St Michael’s newest addition.
The dogs are both four-month-old Groodles, who also happen to be sisters and littermates.
The pair were sourced by Dogs Connect, a world-first mental health and wellness program that integrates wellbeing doings into schools and workplaces.
A helping hand
Kylie Brakel, Principal at St Joseph’s, said the arrival of Winnie was the culmination of many years of research and months of preparation.
“I’ve been researching the use of wellbeing dogs for some time now, so I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to implement it,” Mrs Brakel said.
“Wellbeing dogs are shown to help reduce anxiety among children, to help those who have experienced trauma, and to help teach social and emotional regulation” – Kylie Brakel
Mrs Brakel noted that she’s already seen an enormous difference in the behaviours of both students and staff.
“It’s been great to see the smiles on their faces – you could see the happiness and positivity that Winnie brought right from the first day,” she said.
“I had a parent even say to me, ‘I have never seen such a happy group of children.’”
An instant hit
Alison Felici, Principal at St Michael’s, said the idea to introduce a wellbeing dog into the school came about as a direct result of lockdown.
“One of our goals coming out of COVID was to look for ways to reduce anxiety in both students and staff,” Mrs Felici explained.
Mrs Felici, who is also Micky’s carer, said Dogs Connect helped to support the school in preparation for Micky’s arrival, providing training and advice as to how best integrate her into classrooms.
“We did a survey beforehand to identify those students who may suffer most from anxiety or are not comfortable with dogs, and we have a core group of teachers who worked with those students in preparation for Micky’s arrival,” Mrs Felici said.
“I was mindful of how Micky might react to students on the first day but she took an instant liking to her new surroundings, and the students absolutely adore her.”
“It’s been very, very positive” – Alison Felici
Part of the family
Students at St Michael’s can’t get enough of their new furry friend.
“The students are walking into school happy and positive, and are always asking when Micky’s next day is,” Mrs Felici said.
“[They] look forward to coming to school knowing that she is going to be there.”
Winnie has also amassed an adoring crowd, both in person and online!
“Winnie is a hot topic on a staff group chat and we’ve enjoyed sharing her journey so far on her own Instagram page,” Mrs Brakel said laughing.
“Winnie’s name means gentle friend and peacemaker, and she’s already become that for our school community.”
Both dogs are slowly being introduced into their new schools in accordance with timetables suggested by Dogs Connect.