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Welcome Rosie the Wellbeing WooferPosted in College Community,Wellbeing on Friday, 9 August, 2019

Welcome Rosie!

This morning, Rosie the Wellbeing Dog clocked in for her first shift of work here at Mandurah Catholic College. Rosie is a 5-year-old black English staffy, and beloved pet of College Mental Health Nurse Mrs Leslie Hills. After much training and assessing, Rosie has finally qualified as a therapy dog who will accompany Mrs Hills in her work with MCC students.

Different from service dogs, therapy dogs react and respond to students under the supervision and instruction of their owner. In particular, wellbeing dogs are used by those in the health field to assist with patient and client wellbeing. Wellbeing dogs can assist in a number of ways with students being encouraged to interact with Rosie in a way that feels comfortable to them. From simply providing a calming presence, being available for pats and cuddles, listening to student problems and providing love and attention, Rosie will be able to support students in many ways.

The current research shows that working with animals in any health field improves wellbeing and in particular, statistics have shown that therapy dogs can be a key part of improving the wellbeing of those with mental health issues. In a new trend, dogs have now been introduced into schools as wellbeing dogs, working with school psychologists and mental health nurses to support students. Some of the other schools in Western Australia to employ the use of a wellbeing dog are Iona Presentation College, Kolbe Catholic College, Peter Moynes Anglican Community School and Mater Dei College.

Mrs Hills described her dynamic role here at the College as “working around the children who have anxiety and presenting problems – anything from school refusal to depression, substance issues, separation, harmful behaviours and other mental health issues,” Mrs Hills has been a Mental Health Nurse at the College for 6 years now, and has many years of mental health experience. She works with Deputy Principal of Pastoral Care Mrs Mary-Anne Reynolds and the Pastoral Care Team to identify and make provisions for students who need extra support. “In my role at the College I work to reduce and minimise the impact of anxiety and mental health issues through a number of methods including anxiety management, cognitive behavioural therapy, breathing exercises, art therapy, mindfulness exercises and dialectical behavioural therapy to help improve students’ mental wellbeing and outcomes. Rosie can be of great assistance with these implementations.”

There is a long process in order to have a pet qualify as a wellbeing dog. Mrs Hills confirmed that councillors who want to bring in a wellbeing dog go on special professional development in order to learn how to handle their animals as therapy dogs. And for the professional pooches there’s a long process of assessment to be classified as wellbeing dogs.

Firstly, the College had to ensure that there was an up-to-date policy and procedure specifically for dogs in school. Next, the College Leadership Team discussed the idea of having a therapy dog and decided that this would suit the College and may be of great assistance to Mrs Hills in the management of student mental health issues. “I then discussed the process in detail with Principal Mr Wallace, and following this I was able to organise for Rosie to be assessed as a therapy dog,” Mrs Hills said. Rosie is extremely obedient and passed the assessment with flying colours – I am very proud of her. I knew Rosie would be very compatible with this type of work. She is she is calm, friendly, extremely obedient, loving and great with kids.” Mrs Hills said.

College Principal Mr Chris Wallace said, “I saw a couple of documentaries that showed scientifically how people’s anxiety levels dropped the moment their therapy dog came in. So I started finding out information about people having dogs for therapy. Using dogs in this way has been founded by scientific research and more and more people are using it. When I heard about schools using it I was excited and encouraged. It’s part of a range of tools and techniques to enable all of our children to be supported whether it be for anxiety or just simply for comfort.
“We have done our due diligence with lots of research into the use of therapy dogs. We then had to go through a process to qualify Rosie for this type of work, which we took very seriously. I truly believe this can support our students in addition to what we already do. It provides a piece of the puzzle that we have not had before. We are constantly growing and looking for new ways to improve our students’ wellbeing.”

Rosie will be working at the College on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8am to 12pm where she will first do a lap around the College to visit students during Homeroom, and then settle in to supporting students during counselling sessions. Rosie is approved for work as a wellbeing dog with secondary school students only, 12 years and over.

Good luck in your first week, Rosie!

Rosie - 3
Rosie - 1
Rosie - 4
Rosie - 2