A COMMUNITY DOG recently introduced at a Cork secondary school in a bid to reduce anxiety and stress amongst students post-Covid is already making a ‘pawsitive’ impact in helping to break down barriers and bring a smile to students’ faces.
Two-year-old Alma, a golden Labrador and Retriever mix, joined the school community at Glanmire Community College (GCC) on April 25 following an extensive process of assessment and has been lighting up the corridors ever since.
Alma is trained under the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Community Dog Programme, where dogs with a handler work alongside the educational staff and educational therapists in a school to help reduce stress and increase the learning potential of the students through goal-directed interventions.
Together, the trained dog and handler participate in classroom activities and work with individual students and groups.
GCC has become the seventh school nationwide to join the programme, which teacher Caroline Byrne, who looks after Alma on a full-time basis, lauds as “amazing”.
“I just think in a school, a dog breaks down so many barriers. To have a dog who is specifically trained in terms of temperament and personality to work every day in a school with adolescents, I just think is amazing,” Ms Byrne said, speaking toahead of Guide Dog Day tomorrow.
“She’s [Alma] predominantly placed in our ASD programme but what we have realised as days go on is she’s a community dog, as the title suggests!
School principal Ronan McCarthy said the introduction of a community dog is part of the school’s well-being programme.
“We have a lot of kids in school presenting with anxiety, as every school does now and particularly after Covid.
“We have a very strong pastoral care structure in place and Alma is a recent addition to that.
“That’s in addition to the pastoral support that we would normally provide.
“Alma is another step in this direction,” he said.
Mr McCarthy paid tribute to Ms Byrne for her efforts in undergoing the necessary training for the programme and for her full-time care of Alma.