K9 Pro “Angels Program” – Canines for Child Therapy
Hi, my name is Trish and I am lucky enough to be a “K9Pro Angel!” I am the program coordinator for the program which means I take care of most of the comings and goings and the roster etc.
We are a group of dog lovers, under the guidance of Steve Courtney, who volunteer our time to the K9 Angels Canines for Child therapy program, with our dogs of course.
The program commenced as an initiative by Steve in conjunction with OurTown San Miguel Family Centre at Kurmond (North Richmond), where they provide short term accommodation and support to families who are experiencing homelessness.
Every Monday an Angel and his/her dog attends the after school homework programme at OurTown at around 3:45pm. We wait for the children to arrive in the centre’s activity room where, with the assistance of Ourtown staff they commence their homework. One by one the children take a turn to select a reading book, sit down on the floor rug and commence reading to and with the dog, who remain on the mat for the hour while all the children take their turn.
At the end of the reading time with each child, we generally like to “show off” our dog’s individual talents for the children. This could be anything from just letting them feed a treat to the dog, shake a paw, watch a trick or participate in learning some dog training.
The benefit of having the dogs listen to the children is evident on many levels. First off, a dog isn’t judgmental! The kids feel very comfortable sitting with a K9 “pal” on the floor reading the dog a story. Certainly the Angel is there to prompt when help is needed with a difficult word, but the kids focus is primarily on the dog. The support workers at BoysTown have seen the improved literacy in many of the children. They have commented that some of the children are taking books back to the cottages to “practice” with their parent/s so they will be ready for next week.
Because each dog is different , the Angel can determine how much contact their dog likes from the children. Giving the children some rules and boundaries with the program is instrumental in expanding their social skills. They learn that they must be on their best behaviour in order to attend the program and that means attending school, doing their homework, and abiding by the rules around the dogs.
And you know what…….they do! And they love it.
These kids don’t have pets of their own as they are not permitted at San Miguel. Having the opportunity to sit and pat the dogs, to interact with them and learn about what it is to have a “pet” means a lot to them, they gain so much on so many levels from their time with the Angels and their very special K9’s.
There is nothing like walking in on a Monday afternoon to the centre and having eager faces showing you their homework and hoping they will be first in line to read!
We have also just expanded our volunteer services to another wonderful group, the “Wesley Dalmar Out of Home Care”. On a Wednesday in Wentworth Falls an Angel and his/her dog attend the home of two foster boys who are in care there.
Their support worker attends the afternoon with the Angel and organises 30 min of some reading time with the boys, the Angel then has the other 30 minutes to fill in in as they would like to. This could be just going for a walk to the park at the back of the house to play ball, doing some tricks, teaching the boys the whole world of pet care which they are not familiar with, or maybe teaching them how to train a dog some basics in obedience.
Do you think you might like to get your wings?
We are always looking for new Angels and their dogs to join our roster either on a Monday afternoon at Kurmond or a Wednesday afternoon at Wentworth Falls…..or both days!
First off your dog needs to have a temperament test with Steve (Courtney) to ensure your dog is suitable to work with the children. You will also need a” Working With Children Check.” This is available to volunteers free of charge (see link below for more information). This test is quite simple and noninvasive and most well behaved, non human aggressive dogs pass. We accept all breeds and currently have German Shepherds, Doberman, Labrador and a few breeds that are mixed with many quality breeds.
We have a roster system and we only work during School Term. The time you are at OurTown is from 3:45pm till 5pm and Wentworth Falls from 3:30pm to 4:30pm.
The K9 Pro Angels stay in touch with each other, write our experiences of our rostered afternoon and just “chat” all on our own private K9 ProAngels FaceBook page. We can post helpful hints there and let the other Angels know about how all the kids are progressing.
If you think you might like to volunteer for the Canines for Child Therapy program with us please email K9Pro Headquarters (firstname.lastname@example.org)
They can also put you in touch with me to let you know more on what we do.
Trish Head Angel
Here are some links for you to take a look at:
OurTown (previously Boystown)
Working with Children Check