Angus came to us in 2018 from Cyprus through the wonderful charity Rehoming Cyprus Pointers and has for the last twelve months worked with me in schools and colleagues. Autism, BPD, dissociation from self, trauma, PTSD from abuse and anxiety are some of the areas that we currently work within. Working with Angus is an amazing experience and despite his terrible start to to life he has a wonderful ability to connect with students. I have studied a lot of empirical and anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits of dogs within school environments however, none of this prepared me for the positive emotional impact of observing the impact Angus has with the students and staff for myself and sharing it with others.
I don’t have any children and did not have any experience of working with children or students before Angus joined our family group. Had I been asked to work in this area before Angus joined us I would have been terrified, lacking confidence and self- belief and unable to bridge the social gap between me and the students on my own. If I walk along a school corridor without Angus I am generally unnoticed by the students, but if I have Angus with me then we are like a social magnet, with groups of students wanting to touch him, and ask questions about him. Last week we began our classroom intervention work and the initial results were very positive. The student that I worked with remained engaged, completed more work and to a higher standard than previously achieved without Angus. It was also noticeable that the social cohesion of the class was enhanced and it was a happy environment to be in, commensurate to regulating the emotions of the students and thus reducing the impact of individual emotional crisis.
Every sessions that we have with the students highlights interactions between them and Angus that generate new behaviours from both student and Angus and form a continual learning pathway for all involved. This week we were working with a new student whom Angus had not met before and we observed a fascinating behaviour from Angus. The student and Angus were sat on the floor together engaging in play activities when Angus broke off, walked across to the other side of the room. He picked up his collapsible water bowl (emptying the contents onto the carpet), brought it across to the student and dropped it close to the student. At no point during any of the student sessions have we used this bowl for any exercises, and student shave never dispensed water in it to Angus . Angus had been drinking from this same bowl in its original location prior to the student coming into the room. So, why did he choose to pick his bowl up and move it closer to the student? Scientifically speaking this behaviour may be a one off, has not been measured and I can provide no data to support my theory. However, this should not detract from its powerful significance for all that observed it. If moving the bowl closer to the student provided no benefit to Angus then surely he wouldn’t have done it? The student was new to Angus and perhaps Angus recognised that when he left the student they became anxious? Bringing the water bowl closer allowed Angus to still drink but, stay closer to the student, regulating their emotions.
One of the students said to me yesterday “We are all animals, and we should not harm any other animals” This is such a positive statement to make from a young child who battles with their own challenges, yet still has time to consider how we human animals engage with non-human animals” In schools and colleagues teachers and staff work extremely hard to juggle the demands of the class, individual children, government and business objectives, but in my opinion cannot possibly manage the volume of young students who are dealing with emotional crisis’s in their lives. For a student who is disassociated and lacks self awareness walking with Angus can mean so much. So, from the streets of Cyprus, discarded like a piece of rubbish, emaciated and left to die Angus is bringing hope and happiness to the students and staff that we work with.