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School Support Dog

November 18, 2020

Tessa isn’t a traditional teacher – in fact she can’t speak and tends to walk around on all fours, but the students at Elderslie Public School have learned a lot since she arrived.

The certified K9 Therapy Dog joined the school’s staff this year and has become popular with students, parents and teachers alike.

“Tessa has always been a calm and gentle dog,” she said.

“I would take her to the dog park as a puppy and she was always more interested in being with the kids over other dogs.

“When she meets children, she has this calming demeanour where she just wants to be close for a pat or a cuddle.”

The happy-go-lucky canine attends school three days a week.

Ms Phillips said there was a booking system in place to ensure Tessa could help students across the school.

“Therapy dogs provide support to students in a number of ways including emotional support, recognising anxiety, helping improve concentration and communication skills and they also help reduce anti-social behaviour,” she said.

“Tessa provides unconditional love without judgement and is beneficial for student’s emotional, social and cognitive wellbeing.

“Student engagement, morale and wellbeing are all lifted with Tessa at the school.

“Something as simple as Tessa walking by can put a smile on their faces and students are always excited when they know Tessa will be in their room.”

Parents of students with dog allergies or a fear of dogs can also opt out of the program.

Elderslie Public School principal Melissa Clarke said the friendly border collie had a positive effect on the students she interacted with.

“Tessa is positive in many ways,” she said.

“By helping students to socialise, to accept responsibility, be a calming influence on the students and give an incentive to attend school on a more regular basis – and to assist with their emotional and physical well-being, through bonding and caring for the dog.”

Ms Phillips said she had only received positive comments about Tessa’s presence at the school.

“The students of Elderslie Public School absolutely adore her,” she said.

“I constantly have students popping into my room during breaks asking if Tessa is at school or when she is in their classroom next.

“They love how fluffy she is and that she climbs into their lap to have a proper cuddle.

“I had a group of four boys in my class organise a dog kennel with our principal and general assistant as a surprise, which was very sweet of them.

“Parents always comment on how much their child talks about her and love having her in the room, often asking to get a border collie at home now.

“I have one particular student in my class that completes a lot of his work focusing on Tessa and his mother often comments saying the bond he shares with her is amazing.”

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