By Mitchell Clarke
Beaconhills College has welcomed two new members to their team, and they’ve likely already taken out the title of most popular teacher.
Dachshund Smudgee and pointer cross greyhound Kai are the newest wellbeing officers, better known as canine counsellors.
The pair currently spend their time working as therapy dogs for the Berwick and Pakenham campuses three days a week, with research indicating therapy animals provide many positive benefits.
Therapy dogs contribute to lifting the mood of students and lowering their anxiety levels whilst boosting confidence and self-esteem. They also assist in lowering aggression and hyperactivity in children.
Both pups graduated from professional therapy training where they received good grades for subjects such as obedience, manners and socialisation.
Working in the counselling rooms, the dogs also visit classrooms on occasion, with Pakenham Campus Counsellor Amanda Harris already noticing the benefits that Kai has brought to the school.
“The children’s faces just light up when they see Kai,” Ms Harris said.
“It’s the most amazing thing, he will just go straight over and sit with the student and stay there. It’s quite beautiful actually.”
Similarly, Berwick Campus Counsellor Jane Negus said the dogs had an uncanny ability to pick up on the emotions of students.
“It’s an unconditional love,” Ms Negus said.
“For children with more serious anxieties, even just being able to walk Smudgee from the car into the school can be helpful.”
The dogs wear vests and working harnesses when working with students and both must have their licenses renewed annually.