Here at MedicAnimal HQ, the approach of September is bringing with it that “Back to School” feeling – the season most of us associate with uncomfortable new shoes and lots of shiny new stationery.
At first, we thought that the topic of school doesn’t have much in common with pets, but on further consideration, companion animals can have an important and even surprising role to play in education.
Various charitable trusts have set up projects which combine reading practice with the enjoyment of some canine company – an idea which can prove beneficial to both the child and the dog. For many (adults as well as young people) learning to read aloud can be a stressful and intimidating experience, which puts many individuals off for life. In the UK, the Bark & Read Foundation (funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust) takes dogs into the classroom for the pupils to read to, building their confidence by allowing them to practice their reading in front of a furry, non-judgemental listener. It seems there’s nothing like the unconditional warmth of a dog to banish nerves about stumbling on a particularly tricky word!
In the US, the guys behind the Shelter Buddies Program have also hit upon a brilliant way to make this relationship mutually valuable, by taking children into animal shelters to read to lonely or timid pets. Not only does this help the child develop their skills with the support of a cute companion, but it helps to re-socialise the animals and reduce their levels of stress. The visiting children also receive educational sessions before they arrive at the shelters, which explain the plight of abandoned dogs, and the difference that their calm interaction with the animals can make. This is a fantastic way to spread awareness, and is likely to raise a pet savvy generation who will carefully consider whether they can really commit to the lifelong responsibility of a puppy or kitten before they take one into their home. And who knows, perhaps they will also be encouraged to adopt a rescue dog when they are old enough to start their own furry family!