Although it might not seem like it, the schools have only been back for a short while. The first week in September is a busy week for our education officers, as we spend this time booking our calendars for the term ahead. However, It’s a fairly easy week for the education dogs. We don’t tend to give them too much admin you see, so when they’re not in schools, they spend their days at our feet, snoozing.
Wake me up when September comes
But once we’re back in our routine, its back to school for the canine members of our team, and we thought you might like to hear about their routines, their training, and what life is like for our education dogs. All of the dogs on the education team must pass an annual assessment, to make sure that visiting schools is a comfortable and safe activity, for both the dog, and the children they will be visiting.
Magic is now the longest serving education dog, having visited schools across the midlands for over three years. She’s well known in her vicinity for being the laziest dog in Ireland, and true to her reputation, she spends most of her time in class sleeping.
Once Paul arrives to a classroom he puts her blue mat on the floor, and she will sit down, but keep her eyes fixed on him; waiting for her bowl of water. You see, Magic always goes for a walk before they head into school, and she builds up a thirst, so before she settles she needs a nice bowl of water. Once she’s had her drink, she’ll have a nice rest.
When she first started as an education dog, she occasionally got a tad moany. She knew Paul had a bag of treats on him, and she wanted them asap, but had Paul given her the treats when she moaned, this would have taught Magic that this was acceptable in a classroom. Instead, he waited until Magic was nice and quiet, and then he rewarded her with a treat. Now she knows that if she is a good girl, she will get a nice treat in return.
If she does get a bit bored, she will go over to her bag and pull out her favourite toy, Mr Turkey. Mr Turkey has seen better days, but she still loves to give him a gnaw to pass the time of day.
Lucy is another of our long-serving education dogs. She covers Dublin with Audrey, and has recently become a part-time education dog, cutting her four days a week in schools, to two days a week. This was because Audrey felt Lucy was a bit sleepy after four days work, and all that walking from class to class was a bit much.
Lucy-like Magic-is fairly relaxed in her activities. For her first class of the day, she is full of beans, giving the room lots of sniffs and what not, but by the end of the day she can be found snoozing in her dog bed. In fact, Audrey tells us Lucy is a bit of a snorer, and that many children in Dublin have had their workshops interrupted by the dulcet tones of Lucy’s snuffles.
When she first became an education dog, Audrey rewarded her good behaviour by giving her treats in a kong. Lucy was very pleased with this, and kept on requesting more kongs. This all seemed dandy until Audrey noticed Lucy was starting to get every so slightly pudgy. It is very important for our dogs’ health to keep them nice and trim, so Audrey had to nip this in the bud. Now Lucy receives two small kongs, and inside these are her regular kibble. Occasionally, when Lucy is extra good, she will get a tiny piece of ham, and she snacks on this throughout the school day. And we’re pleased to report that Lucy has regained her trim figure.
Oh and we can’t forget about Mr Parrot and Nibbles the Beanie Boo. These are Lucy’s two teddies that she brings to school. Nibbles got his name because when Lucy was a puppy, she nibbled his tail off, but Audrey assures us Lucy’s chewing days are over, and now all she does with Nibbles is cuddle him when she sleeps during class.
Piper is such a mellow girl, that she didn’t need a huge amount of training to get her used to school visits. Her owner Dawn tells us that all Piper needs is her lovely white and brown dog bed, and she will lounge about until the end of the school day.
She does get some nice treats when she’s good (which is pretty much all the time). Sometimes this is kibble, but sometimes Dawn rewards her with lovely meaty treats, or occasionally some left over chicken. Never chicken bones though, as these can choke dogs.
She does have a Teddy, and a rubber toy that she can play with if she wants, but Dawn says she is mostly content to lie back and relax, while Dawn delivers her workshop.
And the Final education Dog on our team is the placid Penny.
Penny is the newest canine member to the team, and has more experience visiting libraries than schools, but her owner Maeve, who covers the south east says that Penny really loves her new job.
She isn’t a fussy eater, so Maeve can give her regular kibble to reward her good behaviour, and Penny tends to sit on her white mat when she enters a classroom, and look up at Maeve lovingly (or perhaps looking at the treats lovingly).
She does love meeting all the children, and will give them little sniffs when Maeve lets them approach.
I lied, by the way, when I said Penny was the last member of the education team.
There are two others, that I completely forgot about. Two dogs that are so well behaved, we often overlook them. These two dogs are the quietest dogs on the team, and need absolutely no walks whatsoever. They never chew the furniture, or indeed, never chew anything. Not even food, so they are cheap as well. They never need the vet, or the groomer, yet they could do with some training, as they never sit for their owners.
These two dogs are who our officers Aoife and Domhnall bring to schools.
Bruce, the Connacht dog, and Woofy Goldberg, the Southwest dog.
Being toy dogs mean they are far easier to take care of than real dogs, and Domhnall and Aoife can bring them anywhere they like.
And these are our education dogs.
Are we visiting your school this term?
If you would like us to contact your local Education and Community Officer.
Remember, just like humans, sometimes our dogs can be unwell, and our officers may not be able to bring our dogs with us every day (except for Bruce and Woofy, of course), so please don’t be upset if your officer can’t being their dog. We have to make sure our dogs are comfortable and happy visiting the school, and that’s the most important thing of all.