PUPILS at a primary school had no chance of becoming teacher’s pet after the head started bringing Selkie “The Pupil Whisperer” to class every morning.
The four-year-old Labrador has become an honorary member of the teaching staff at Bickley Park School in Bromley, South East London, coming in every morning to greet the pupils.
She is now helping those who suffer with cynophobia — the fear of dogs — as well as acting as a talking therapy provider for those who need extra support in difficult times.
Children can tell her their problems without feeling judged.
The patient pooch is loved by all the pupils and staff and has helped one little boy with cynophobia to get to grips with his fear.
Pupil Alex Awolola, 13, was so scared of dogs he had five lessons at a centre that introduced dogs to those suffering from cynophobia. This allowed him to get to know pooches on a basic level, but when he went back to school he had to test out what he had been taught with Selkie.
Alex says he was very nervous on his first day back, but by day two he went to the head teacher’s office and managed to stroke Selkie, claiming it was “mission accomplished” and he felt “proud of himself”.
Selkie’s owner, headteacher Patrick Wenham, says: “Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend but for those who have a genuine fear of encountering them, life can be very difficult.
‘CAN RELAX AND SOOTHE’
“Selkie has been heavily involved in the school community. Having her present is proving invaluable for those who have a fear to overcome or those that just need to trust someone who won’t pass judgment.
“Research has shown that stroking animals has a positive effect on mood, and can help relax and soothe people.
“Selkie is a very calm, good-natured dog who is happy to take the role of pupil therapist.
“She is looking forward to helping more children in any way she can.”
Stars of the week
MEET Rodney and Ralph – two pygmy goats who are best buddies and pets to the homeless.
The playful pair live at Emmaus Sheffield, a charity-run community that supports people who used to live on the streets.
Rodney and Ralph, who are both aged five, are not just best buddies to each other but to all their loving owners.
They were purchased for an animal corner at the community thanks to a grant from Sheffield University’s rag-week collections. And pygmy goats were chosen for their friendly nature.
Amy Simpson, a spokeswoman for Emmaus, says: “Many of the formerly homeless people, who the charity care for, are responsible for looking after Ralph and Rodney.
“They help those who have experienced homelessness overcome loss of self-esteem by giving them a purpose.
“They have proved a huge hit.”
SEAN McCORMACK, head vet at tailored food firm tails.com, is on a mission to help pets.
NATALIE WALSH, from Durham, has got a cat called Suzie. She says: “I am moving home soon and am worried about Suzie wandering off.
“She loves to have a little wander and then come back. I’ve heard that you should put butter on their paws and they will return to a new home. Is that right?”
Sean says: “This is a bit of a myth and may not be very effective. I think it’s more likely to be a distraction for Suzie licking the butter off before heading out on her merry way to explore.
“It’s far more helpful to keep her in for several weeks when you move home so she gets used to her new surroundings.
“Then invest in a cat harness and lead when first letting her out to explore the garden each day for the next few weeks. Then let her out during the day at first but keep her in at night when there are more hazards around.
“It’s a gradual process and the slower the better.”
STEPHEN BARROW, from Morecambe, has a cocker spaniel called Woody. He says: “He is nine and loves running for a ball but lately when he does he seems to grab the ball, limp a tiny bit and then run it off.
“By the time he comes back to me his legs are fine. Should I be worried?”
Sean says: “This sounds like Woody may have a niggling problem with the affected leg. I’d worry about his cruciate ligament in particular.
“Dogs that chase balls and come to an abrupt stop place a lot of pressure on the cruciate ligament, which is designed to prevent the upper bone of the hind leg sliding forward over the lower bone when ‘braking’.
“If the ligament is partially torn or inflamed, that could explain why his limp is temporary and only happens right when he brakes for the ball.
“It’s best to get your vet to do a physical exam, at least to rule out this problem, as it could get worse if left untreated.”
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