It was only last week we broke the news that Magic, the midlands education dog was retiring from her role, and perhaps she truly was a trend setter (or lurcher?) because today we bring you the bittersweet news that Piper, our Cork education dog, is also stepping down. Bitter, because of course she’ll be missed, but sweet because, well, just wait until you hear how she’ll be spending her days now.
Piper, famous for her cool-as-a-cucumber demeanour, is not retiring, instead she is transitioning from education dog to doggy carer. She’ll be taking up the new mantle as sitter for her big/little brother Odie, who also once travelled to schools with Dawn, our Senior Education and Community Officer.
Piper’s announcement, like everything Piper does, was understated, relaxed and gathered. We interviewed her for today’s blog to find out how she enjoyed her role, and to find out any gossip on the other Education dogs.
Ever the lady, the leggy blonde refused to spill any scandal, instead she reclined on a fluffy couch, eyes-a-smiling, and charmed us to death.
A few minutes into our interview, Piper's eyes closed and we thought she was thinking deeply about how to answer the question. Turned out she just fell asleep...
Hi Piper, Congratulations on your new job, and on your years of service to Dog Trust. How do you feel about stepping down from your role?
Thank you! I won’t lie, I’m so sad to be stepping back from school visits- I enjoyed them so so much – seeing all the smiling faces in the classrooms, and teaching children about behaving safely around dogs was so enjoyable (not to mention the extra rubs and long naps while Dawn rabbited on and on and on…). But, my brother needs me now and family comes first 😊. I’m sure that I will continue teaching children in a round about way though, when we’re out and about on our walks.
Can you tell us some highlights from your distinguished career?
There were a few! Getting to explore the South West with Dawn was super – I still can’t believe my luck that I graduated from a pound dog to an education dog! I also loved hearing children (and teachers) talking about how calm and chilled out I was, and I especially loved whenever a child who was a bit nervous around dogs volunteered to come and pet me.
I once had a film crew come and record my hard work in schools for something called a dogumentary – it was great to finally have my star quality recognised.
A photo of Piper in her uniform from her early career. Those who worked with her often described her as an easy going dog. Her one classroom demand was always to be sat in the sunspot
You’ve built quite the fanbase over the years, Have you received any fanmail, or fan art of particular note?
Ah yes, the fanmail! Dawn’s shown me plenty of Thank You cards and pictures over the years, and I always marvel at how the children who draw me always capture my best side. My all-time favourite picture was one where Dawn and I had been turned into anime characters. Unfortunately as we’re in the middle of moving – all of my fan mail has been packed safely away so I can’t share one with you!
Oh, that’s a pity but not to worry. What memories of your time as an education dog stand out?
I don’t think I could choose one particular time if I’m totally honest. Though sometimes if I was visiting a school Odie had been to before, the children would often look a little disappointed not to see their old friend again this time- but it never took me long to win them around! Dawn says I also helped change a lot of people’s perceptions about lurchers and greyhounds, and helped promote us as pets so that’s a nice legacy to have 😃
Odie and Piper
You took over the role from your big little Brother Odie in 2017, but you are now taking a new job as his full time companion/therapy dog. How do you feel about that, and what will your new job involve?
You know, as much as I loved visiting schools with Dawn, me and my little bro Odie have spent a LOT of extra time together, and with Dawn, over the last 16 months. Myself and Dawn had a chat about it and we felt it just wouldn’t be fair on Odie if we both went back to visiting schools full time again, as Odie would miss having someone around. Given that I can’t drive, or carry resources, or use powerpoint, we decided that it was best for Dawn to keep up the school visits, and for me to stay at home with Odie to keep him company. Being a stay-at-home dog suits me anyways as I’m not much of an early bird if I can help it, so now I get to lie in.
So where does this leave Dawn, your owner and the Education and Commuity Officer you accompanied to schools across the South West. Will she get a new dog, or visit schools without one?
I’m not going to lie, I feel like Dawn will miss me tremendously in the class – but despite that she won’t be getting a new dog. She has the time, space and money for two dogs, but a third is just out of the question.
She has a toy dog, Rufus, who will take my place in schools- but worry not, Dawn’s workshops will be just as interesting and fun with Rufus as they were with me (just minus the occasional sleep-chase excitement).
And do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to any dogs who might like to become education dogs some day?
It’s a very rewarding job, but it’s not for every dog! I just adore meeting new people (once they’ve asked Dawn of course) and going to new places, but if that’s not something you enjoy then this isn’t the job for you.
If you do enjoy those things, then your first step should be finding a suitable Education Officer- you can’t just go into schools by yourself you know- that’s not allowed.
You also need to be super committed – you’ll have some rigorous assessments with people who know lots about dogs and their behaviour and if you pass those then you can start going to schools with your Officer- maybe for just a couple of workshops for the first few weeks to see how you get on… if it all goes well then you can start going to more schools 😊 But you need to keep brushing up on your studies because every year you’ll have more assessments and tests to make sure you’re still school material! It’s pretty full on!
Thanks Piper. And before we let you go we have a nice little surprise; A message from Dawn.
Piper Piper Piper what can I say- I’m going to miss our adventures around the South West! You did such an amazing job of teaching children about behaving safely and responsibly around dogs in your calm and relaxed way. I’ll miss stopping for sniffy walks on the way to, and from, schools – where it would take you 20 minutes to walk 20 meters as you checked out all the new smells! And I’ll miss your excited little dance whenever I brought out your school harness to put on. Thank you for being so amazing.