Principal greenlights pet project

en19Pets.Jpg Good friends. . . East Gore principal Wendy Kitto knows the benefits of having her dog Jade at school for children to spend time with and is please Hato Hone St John will introduce a pet therapy programme to the Hokonui area. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A plan to introduce a pet therapy programme has found approval with East Gore School principal Wendy Kitto.
Hato Hone St John wants to recruit volunteers and their pets to join the programme coming to the Hokonui area.
She had seen firsthand how bringing her dog Jade to school helped children, Ms Kitto said.
‘‘There is so much benefit and merit in using animals for healing of the soul.
‘‘Animals just bring out the feel good.
 ‘‘If you’re in an unsettled place animals can cut through all that and bring you a little bit of joy.’’
 The children enjoyed reading to Jade.
 ‘‘If they had done some fantastic reading in the classroom or needed a little bit of extra practice they would come and read to Jade except sometimes Jade would snore but that was OK because Jade was just dreaming about the story.
 ‘‘They would show her the pictures even though her eyes were shut.’’
 Having a dog onsite was also an opportunity for pupils to learn how to behave around dogs.
  ‘‘We have students who don’t like or are afraid of dogs for whatever reason through to students who are over friendly.’’
 St John community care manager Pam Hall said the community service gave volunteers the opportunity to enhance the lives of others by sharing their animal companions with them.
 Those people might live in rest homes, private and public hospitals, rehabilitation units, healthcare facilities, or attend schools throughout New Zealand.
 ‘‘We’re looking for dogs and owners that have a friendly, calm, and gentle temperament and are good with both the very young and the elderly.
 ‘‘All pets will be evaluated by a qualified animal assessor to ensure they have a suitable temperament and training.’’
 The most common feedback from existing therapy pet volunteers was they loved seeing the joy their pet brought to the people they visited.
 ‘‘We hear a lot of stories from residents at the rest homes visited by our volunteers and pets, talking about how much they enjoyed the experience for days and weeks afterwards,’’ she said.
Affection from a visiting animal could make a significant difference in the physical and emotional health of the residents, she said.
‘‘Animals don’t judge or criticise, and they treat everyone equally.
 ‘‘They aren’t shocked by human ailments, frailties, disabilities, or confusion.
 ‘‘They can reduce the stress and fears associated with illness or old age and they offer unconditional love and friendship.’’
The time commitment for the role is one hour per week.
The Therapy Pets programme was first introduced into New Zealand in 1988 by former Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals president Bob Kerridge and his late wife Iris, after being impressed with a similar programme operating in the United States.
At present there are more than 360 volunteers in the programme.