Some of the most beautiful stories I have encountered as I deliver Sandstories around the UK, have been those about the relationship between animals and vulnerable children and adults.
I could probably write a book with the many descriptions that have been given to me of animals who recognise the feelings and emotions of vulnerable people and then draw close to them with concern and comfort.
Here is an example from a social worker who placed a distressed young boy with a foster carer who had a dog.
The dog was a Great Dane cross and was therefore very large. The foster carer went into her living room and found the young boy sobbing. He wasn’t crying, he was sobbing. And the big dog was leaning against him.
The foster carer was naturally very concerned and bent down to the young boy and asked him why he was so upset.
The child answered:
“I’m not upset. It’s just that your dog is squeezing all the sadness out of me.”
And this is what animals so often do.
Over time, I have become so convinced about the value of animal-assisted therapy, that I recommended to the headteacher of the SEMH high school (where I am a governor), that the school should have its own therapy dog.
Long story short: I am now the owner of the school’s therapy dog!
He’s called Baikka (which means ‘be calm, don’t stress’). Baikka is registered with Pets As Therapy and is an integral part of the school community. And he has proved to be the most wonderful companion for me, too!
And just because I can, here’s a photo of Baikka on his first day in school, then delivering his Covid safety message to the school’s learners.