Real Estate · Uncategorized

TOP TIPS FOR LANDLORDS AT TAX TIME

It’s that time of the year again.

Tax time is looming but many Australian property investors may be underprepared, according to leading landlord insurance specialist Terri Scheer Insurance.

“Landlords often come under scrutiny from the ATO when lodging tax returns, so it is important they complete their claims accurately,” said Carolyn Parrella, Executive Manager of Terri Scheer Insurance.

“Landlords should consult their accountants to confirm what can and cannot be claimed as a tax deductible expense. This ensures all claims are legitimate and the tax return amount is maximised.

“Seeking advice from a tax specialist can help make this time of the year much easier for landlords.”

Ms Parrella, also a property investor, has offered the following top tips for tax time:

– Negative gearing
“The net loss generated by negative gearing can be offset against other income, to reduce the tax payable,” Ms Parrella said.

“Landlords may be unaware that interest can only be claimed when the property is availablefor rent. For example, if a property is lived in for half a year and leased as a holiday rental for the other half, you cannot claim the interest for the full 12 months.”

-Insurance
“Property investors can usually claim their landlord insurance premium as a tax deduction butthis is often overlooked,” Ms Parrella said.

“Ahead of tax time, it’s also worthwhile checking your insurance policy to ensure you have theappropriate coverage. Some landlord insurance policies provide cover for professional feesincurred as a result of an ATO tax audit relating to investment properties. A standard homeand contents insurance policy won’t cover landlords for the specific risks associated withproperty investing.

-Expenses
“Landlords can potentially miss out on thousands of dollars of tax benefits by under claiming,”Ms Parrella said.

“Apartment or unit owners may be able to claim body corporate fees on strata or community title properties. Landlords who rent a fully-furnished property, such as a holiday home, may be eligible to claim some of their rental income as a tax deduction.
“Maintenance costs, such as changing light globes or fixing a hot water service if it breaks, may also be tax deductible. Running costs such as council rates, land taxes, water and sewerage charges might also be legitimate and claimable expenses.
“Landlords should check with their accountant to determine what they can and cannot claim.”

– Offsetting costs
“You may be able to claim travel to your investment property as a tax deduction, however you shouldn’t exploit this by incorporating it as part of a holiday or another trip,” Ms Parrella said.

“Similarly, if you’re a self-managed landlord, you may be able to claim some of the costs of your home office. You won’t be able to claim all the costs, such as purchasing the computer and the monthly internet bills, however a fair and reasonable part of this may be deductible.

“An experienced and qualified accountant can provide further advice.”

– Property manager
“Not only are property managers an invaluable asset to landlords, their cost can be a deductible expense for landlords,” Ms Parrella said.

“Appointing a property manager might create a potential tax benefit while assisting with organisation and saving time for landlords.

“A good property manager will take care of the administrative responsibilities involved in an investment property. They should also be able to help reduce the burden at tax time by compiling and completing the relevant paperwork for ATO reporting.”

For further information, visit http://www.terrischeer.com.au or call 1800 804 016.

Real Estate

What does a good tenant look like?

So you have purchased your investment property, it is being advertised and you have received applications…. now how do you choose which tenant you want to secure?

Here are my insiders tips to being able to find the best tenant:

Meet them – if you live nearby or if you are renting out the property yourself make sure you meet the prospective tenants, this is imperative. Use your intuition, what is it saying to you?  If you cannot meet them then ask the person who has done this on your behalf some probing questions, were they neatly attired, were they polite, did they show up on time, were they early? Did they have any pets with them? Are they desperate to find accommodation if so why? How many people want to live there? How long for? These are all indicators as to what type of tenant they are.

Ensure that they complete an application form –  I remember in the UK when I rented a property, the landlord literally met me and my flatmate and then decided there and then without any paperwork that he would allow us to rent out his property for 12 months. It was great for us but if something had gone wrong he would have been in all types of trouble with his insurer or the Freeholder of the property.

Application form presentation – Have a good look at the application form, is it a mess with scribble all over it? Is it neat and tidy? Was it sent electronically? Was it slipped under your door in an envelope? Was the application presented in a bound folder (don’t laugh I have had this in the past)? I have had others that looked like and smelled like they were filled out in a pub with stains on them etc. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they present their application forms.

Identification – check their ID carefully – I had a colleague who agreed a tenancy but the ID was fake. She did not realise this until the Police contacted her as they wanted to raid the property for drugs and stolen goods. My old boss raced down to the property to prevent the Police from kicking in the door and doing any damage to the property.  Constantly ask references to confirm the details on the applicants ID. Get those vital details checked i.e. their date of birth, their address, their mobile phone number etc. The more people who confirm those details the better.

How did they speak to you? I have had tenants who have been so rude to me prior to gaining a tenancy that I would never recommend them for a tenancy. I have to have a relationship with the applicants for a minimum of 12 months. Why would I do this to myself or to my client? I have to admit that I am always astonished at how people think that they can talk to a property manager prior to a tenancy. I will never agree a tenancy to a rude applicant.

Check out their references – this is a very important step. Make sure that you never call mobile numbers, always search for the landline equivalent when it comes to finding out more about the applicants and their jobs. You need to know the name of the company that they work for. Then you look up the registered landline number and you call and speak with the Receptionist – ask for that person by job title not by name. Ensure that you speak with their direct employer/manager. Ask the receptionist who their Manager would be. I could not tell you the amount of times a prospective tenant has put their work colleague down as their “Manager”. Go via the receptionist each time, they will always point you in the right direct.

Use the internet – Check them out on as much as you can on the internet, ensure that you check an industry recognised database to see that they are not black listed by other agents. Do a public records check, I remember doing my due diligence and discovering that a prospective tenant had found out his girlfriend was cheating on him. He learned who the man was and when he found him, he ran over him in his car. My client and myself did not want someone with a history like that as a tenant. I could not imagine the risk that a staff member would have just going into a property with him knowing that there had been past aggression.

Call their personal references – you will be surprised at what information you can glean from them. Most of the time it is 100% accurate and they favour the applicant however I have had a personal reference tell me to not rent the property to this prospective tenant because he was recently involved in a meth lab set up. Thank you for being so honest Mr Personal Reference! A meth lab is a very expensive mess to clean up. In order to clean a meth lab back to a non toxic state, all carpet, curtains, beds, toys, linen, couches and other highly absorbent material must be removed from the affected property and either clean (for high value items) or disposed of. All food preparation surfaces such as kitchen benches will need to be removed and disposes of in most cases.
 It is a nightmare. Prevention is better than cure.

Ask the applicant to do something for you – supply you with some more information, get someone to call you back – that kind of thing. Test how good they are at follow through. I use this technique when I am hiring staff too! Some people will do as you have requested, others won’t and I am constantly surprised by the amount of people that spend their time doing all of the initial ground work and then fail to do the required follow up.  If you have maintenance that needs to be carried out and you need a tenant’s assistance to get it done, you want to work with someone who can and will assist you instead of someone who will not be as responsible.

Phone calls – track how many times they have contacted you during the initial phase. There are those tenants who will call you 10 times a day. It has been my experience that this behaviour will not stop during the tenancy. You want tenants who are relaxed and who will not take up your day with small issues. Alternatively they call so much because they are anxious to secure a property. If they urgently need to move home, this should raise questions too. Why have they had to move so quickly? What has happened, have they had other applications declined? Have they been evicted?

All of the above are red flags and they will help you to assess if you want to proceed with an applicant or not. If you only find one issue that has been brought to your attention or that does not add up then you should ask the applicant to explain to you in further detail.

Sometimes there is a very good reason for an issue, other times it will just not add up. It is when I see a few of the flags that I recommend that an application is declined. If a landlord and I are torn between accepting an applicant or not, we will usually go with my gut.

With over 25 years experience as a Property Manager I have fine tuned my instincts and intuition when it comes to choosing tenants for my clients. So do as the professionals do and listen to your intuition too!

– Tracie

Real Estate

The things I tell my friends when they are looking for a good property manager…

So, you are looking for a good property manager…what do you look for? Let me tell you, it is not all of the usual standard stuff about fees etc that you should be comparing. You should be looking into the services and the way the business is set up.

Does the owner of the business work in the Property Management team or the Sales Team? I say this because most agencies are owned by sales people who start a property management company on the side as they do not want to refer business to someone else. You want a company where the owner of the business works in the property management department daily (80% of the day at least).

What structure does your PM department run? Why is this important? Well, there are several reasons and there are several structures. The 2 main structures are:

  • Task based – means that you have a separate person/department to deal with everything, just like a major phone company – you will have to speak with this person to find out about maintenance and that person to find out about payments and a completely different other person if you have a problem. This is great if the PM department is large (because you have experts in their fields working for you) but it will drive you nuts if you have to speak with 3 people if you have 1 problem.
  • Portfolio based – this means that 1 person looks after everything from finding a tenant, managing rent arrears, maintenance, periodic inspections, bills, vacating tenants etc. This is great if you PM is not overworked and does not have many clients to look after. I always say that for every property I look after I am usually managing 4 clients (2 landlords and 2 tenants), that is a lot of people to manage if I have too many properties.

How many properties does each PM look after? Again this is a very important question to ask because let’s look at it specifically. Industry standard for a portfolio Pm is 120 properties. A PM is scheduled works 38 hours a week (normally however we all know that they work a lot more than that). 38/120 = 32 minutes per week that the PM can fairly allocate to each property. If a Pm runs more than 120 properties as I know others do i.e. 140 properties that leaves you with = 27 minutes per week. I have actually know an owner of a PM business to allocate only 20 minutes per property per week.

How much real life experience do the PMs have? I know a lot of agencies who hire young staff i.e. 20 – 23 because they are cheap however most of the time they have not left the family home yet, don’t know how to obtain a mortgage, do not understand what “loan to value ratio” means, have never seen a depreciation schedule, have never had anything to do with a body corporate and who are yet to understand the worry that being a landlord brings with it.

How organised is your PM? I have known many PMs who could not organise a “chook” raffle let alone your trust account ledger. They can talk the talk but they have no idea what they are doing. Ask to speak with 3-5 client whose properties are currently being advertised for rent. They are current clients who are currently going through one of the most stressful times in a tenancy. They will tell you the truth!

Does the PM understand ledgers and trust accounting legislation? This is a large part of the job, it is vital that the PMs understand how to account correctly and what to do to repair an accounting error.

Who attends and prepares the QCAT (small claims tribunal) hearings? Is it someone with experience or just whoever is there at the time? Does the property manager personally attend? If it is a Task based PM department then this will be particularly important as one person will not have consistent dealings with the tenants and/or history of the case.

Does the PM department receive commissions from companies for referring business? You want to know if there is a payment of some kind and you are legally supposed to be advised of this. Some of the businesses that pay PMs are:

  • Landlord Insurance
  • Building Insurance
  • Sales department
  • Developers
  • Utility connection companies (gas, electricity, TV etc)
  • Mortgage companies
  • Financial advisers
  • Depreciation companies
  • Professionals (solicitors, accountants etc)
  • Photographers

Additional tips!

Make sure you find out everything you can about the owner of the business, google, Facebook, Insta – do your research.

Ask for a list of their their preferred tradespeople. Call these companies and ask questions such as:

  • ask what percentage of their work is done with the agent?
  • how do they let them know about jobs?
  • does the contractor do free quotes?
  • what percentage of the quotes they provided to the agency are approved?
  • do they make the contractors fill out a contractor insurance form?
  • have they ever lost keys?
  • is most of their work done immediately?
  • does the agent pay their bills on time? If so how frequently?
  • do they have issues with communication? Who is the best property manager to work with in the office?
  • how do they access properties to carry out work? (do they collect keys or do they arrange access with the tenants?)

All of these questions will give you a picture of how actual business runs.

I hope that these insights allow you to choose the best property manager for you and your family. These are huge investments that you have worked extremely hard to purchase and they must be administered professionally!

If you have ever had a bad property manager you will know the value of a good one!

-Tracie

Allergy

Time to Open the Office

My son was 7 months’ old on the day that I officially opened Harringtons Realty.

The menu that morning was “eggy soldiers” and I was super excited. This would be the first time that J would experience eggs and they were a favourite breakfast of my Poppy (who had sadly passed away when I was 13) and preparing them for my son was bringing back so many lovely memories.

eggy soldiers

I was in my kitchen sitting in front of J (who was in his high chair) dipping the toasted soldiers into the runny, gooey yolk. I was excitedly talking to J about our plans for the day, how the office was to officially open and all of the things we had to do. Sadly, J did finish that breakfast, after about 3 dips he was hysterically crying! I could to figure out what was happening, so I asked my husband to keep an eye on him for a second whilst I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, I noticed that where the egg yolk had been smothered on J’s face there was now a dark purple patch. I remember thinking, “now that does not look right”. It was at that stage that I decided that we needed to drive to the doctors and get it checked out.

Like a shot, I put my son into his car seat and began driving to the doctor’s office. After about 4 minutes I heard J coughing and starting to choke in the back seat. This is when the proverbial hit the fan. Any idea of this not being a serious problem went out of the window. We were a Def Con 4!

I called the emergency services and I was told to pull over to the side of the road and wait for them to meet me. In my state of mind I thought that the idea of just waiting was the worst idea I had ever heard. I needed to get J to the hospital now!

In my panic I hit the curb on the side of the road, all while trying to tell the emergency services operator that there was a doctor’s surgery just up the road and that I would stop there, the ambulance could meet me there.

As soon as I arrived at the doctor’s surgery I raced out of the car and rushed to J. He was crying, coughing and choking now. J was hysterical and he was not the only one. I carried him into the doctor’s office screaming for help (and I mean really screaming, this was full tilt panic). Thankfully a Receptionist was there getting ready to open the office (as it was still before working hours).

Unfortunately the doctor had not arrived for her shift as yet however the Receptionist could see what was happening and she immediately called the Doctor and asked for assistance. She told the Receptionist to administer antihistamine at once, which she did.

By this stage I had noticed that J was becoming enveloped in a large dark purple rash. I was pacing, holding J, consoling him all the while checking to see where the ambulance was. I have to admit that I was thrilled when I heard the sirens in the distance and seeing the paramedics arrive. Help was here!

The paramedics assessed J and we were placed on a gurney with my son in my arms still screaming and crying.  I desperately wanted was to be taken to the emergency department and to have the doctors help J. His wailing screams were piercing my heart. My poor baby was in an utter state, he had no idea of what was going on and he could not comprehend the situation that we were in.

We arrived safely at the Emergency Department and we were taken straight in. I had never been to an ED before and it was an eye opener! The staff were brilliant, they were extremely professional and they were calm as cucumbers (unlike myself).

I noted that there was an elderly man having a heart attack in one of the cubicles so we were not the most severe case and we had to wait our turn. While we waited I watched J’s dark purple rash get larger and larger, it was nearly all-encompassing his body by this stage. J was scratching wherever his little hands could reach and he was the same colour as Grimace (the fast food character), he was an itchy mess. A young nurse came and inserted a cannula into the top of  J’s tiny hand, just in case he needed any medication quickly. That only made things worse for J, he was desperately trying to take the cannula out.

When time allowed a doctor came and saw us, he told us that it looked like J was severely allergic to eggs and that he should be assessed by an allergy specialist. Then on his instructions another nurse administered more antihistamine and we took off all of J’s clothes, my heart sank, this rash was everywhere.

The doctor wanted to observe J for a while to make sure that he did not need an injection of epinephrine so after 4 hours or so, we were discharged. That was the start of our anaphylaxis journey and the story of the first day I opened the doors to Harringtons Realty. I will never forget it.

——————————————-

Being a sick child, J spent a lot of time with me at my office. I had a small crèche that was had set up in the corner, being the boss made this an easy decision to make – and a necessary one.

I loved having J there but let’s face it, this was not ideal. Just owning a business is stressful let alone adding a baby into the mix, but I was already all in, I had financial commitments and there was nothing I could do but make the best of it.

I managed some how to get through it, with support of my husband and family (who helped out with babysitting and who also did a lot of cleaning for us). I had a successful business!

Between doctors visits, inspections, meetings, feedings, specialists, sleeping, medicine, creams and crying I made it work.

Having a high care baby means that there was a lot of time working from home and not being able to physically make it into the office. I have had to reschedule countless meetings or bring my son with me to appointments. As most working mums know you do what you have to do – “no ifs buts or maybes”.

I am blessed though, I have been very fortunate to have some of the best clients in the world. I have never had one client say that they felt it was inappropraite that my son was with me during our meeting, in fact many enjoyed the time spent with him. I remember having to call a client (and holding back tears) because a “poonami” had erupted in the car on the way to meet them at a new property they had just purcahsed – they were very understanding.

My clients have cuddled J, they have bounced him on their laps and they have watched him grow over the years. I think that this is what being a working mum is all about – acceptance, patience and flexibility.

– Tracie

P.S. I later found out that I had popped the tyre on my car and a very kind mechanic who worked at the petrol station across the road from the doctors fixed it for me that day free of chargeeggy soldiers. People are kind.

 

Sport · Uncategorized

Touch Football Mum

Harringtons Harriers-01.jpg

Those of you who know me personally,  you know that I am an avid fan of touch football. Each weekend you will find me out on the fields, screaming, jumping and barracking for the various teams I am involved in.

When my son – we will call him J was young, I was willing him to be older so that I could sign him up to a team sport. I wanted to see him get out and run on the fields, as much for his good as for mine. I desperately wanted to make new friends, meet new people and stop feeling as isolated as I did being a Mum of a small child and a business owner.

I remember when my son was about 5 and they had a mini Soccer team on Saturday mornings. There I was on the sidelines all dressed up (in my office gear with high heels on, sinking into the grass) cheering him on. Then I watched in amazement as he became grumpy because “the other boys were taking the ball off him”. The other parents on the side lines laughed and I have to admit I had to stifle a few giggles as I cuddled him and told him it would be OK.

When the Coach changed his position and made him Goalie, I thought OK here we go! Instead he stormed off the field because the boys kicked the ball in the goal! My little Goalie was lying down on the sidelines (leaving us vulnerable) and he was bawling. Telling me how unfair it was. Oh the joys of parenting and early Winter morning starts!

As you have probably figured out Soccer was not our thing. We waited a few years and eventually we became involved in our school touch football team then our local touch football team. Now for over 4 years we have been playing in various teams and age groups. It has been lovely to see them progress from “little minions” as I call them where they just  chase the ball all over the field in a “swarm formation” to now, where I can see skill and strategy developing.

We are involved in our lovely local club team where we have a very caring coach right up to the local Representative team where try out were necessary and we thankfully made the cut.

These days we are involved in 3 teams varying from Under 12 – Under 14. This keeps us very busy as well as being the Manager for the Representative Team and the Coach of our own team Harrington Harriers. Our Rep Team means that we have Carnivals to attend each month and we train twice a week – it is a lot of organising to make sure that they get to training and then to the Carnivals which are usually at least an hour away.

Along the way I have met some wonderful people, they are very caring and would bend over backwards for you – that is what I have discovered, there seems to be a loyalty with this club. I remember when I was trying to find Mal Meninga (the Australian Coach and legendary goal kicking centre) a home in Brisbane and my son was over the moon. J told all of his friends at school that Mum had met Mal Meninga, what a proud little boy I had that week.

Apart from the people you meet, I love the fact that kids can roam free on the fields, they learn to be independent and to not hover around their parents. I also love the fact that this gives me a bit of me time where I can chat with other parents and a catch up in the Clubhouse (and a cheeky well-earned Friday night drink) after the games have finished. All of our kids are out kicking balls, running around and exhausting themselves even more whilst we are inside chatting away with each other!

Our Carnivals are a huge amount of fun, we all pack the car, we pick up other team mates and friends and we have a bit of a road trip before we get to the fields. We set up a meeting area usually and then is a case of making sure the kids are wearing sun screen, hats & shirts. We go to their various fields and we scream and cheer them on, making complete fools out of ourselves. We have picnics for lunch on the sidelines when we have a break from playing, we watch the older kids play – wow they can fly! We watch our younger kids absorbed in the game, they all excitedly chatter and mimic the older kids moves on the sidelines. It is wonderful to see the comraderie of the team, it is absolutely terrific!

I wanted to say congratulations to every parent, grand parent, foster parent, uncle, aunty, brother and sister etc. who dedicates their time to ensure that their families are involved in sport – whichever sport it may be. There are so many benefits not only health.

I have seen J grow in confidence, his resilience has improved, his perception of right and wrong is now a bit more grey rather than black and white,  because let’s face it we never agree with the referee 100% of the time do we? J is learning about our community, that kids and parents are different that they have different abilities and behaviours.

I believe that parents need a greater amount of dedication to a child’s team than the child does (and usually the parents do!).

-Tracie

 

 

Uncategorized

ANZAC Day – what it means to me

ANZACPhoto by Cheryl Goodenough

ANZAC day is a very important day for me. This is for many special reasons, not only because it is the official day of recognition and commemoration for Australia but also because on this special day I remember my family.

I have had many of my descendants fight in wars all over the world, from my Great Grandfather who was an ANZAC and who fought in France, my Grand Father who fought in WWII and my Father who fought in Vietnam.

I never met my Great Grandfather and my Grandfather never spoke of his experiences (he passed away when I was 13). My Dad was a Vietnam Vet and he was very scarred by the experience. My mother divorced him upon his return as he had become an alcoholic and had a very large amount of mental health issues.

As kids we suffered quite a bit because of the Vietnam War. We lost a father and our family was split up, we lived with my Grand parents for many years (the best of my life I have to admit – lollies and love and kindness abounded but that is what Grand Parents are for!).

I remember going to the Dawn Ceremony in Melbourne one year with my Dad, I must have been 6-7. Dad and I were in the city centre very early, it was dark and I was excited. From my point of view it was fun (I was walking in a parade, in the City and people were cheering me – oh, to be so naive again). I was spending time with my Dad (who I did not see so often anymore due to his mental health issues). It was all going terrifically well until we had an incident (due to his mental health) and we had to come home. I was a bit shaken up by it but really all that mattered to me was that I was spending time with my Dad.

As I grew older I realised what a toll the Vietnam War took on him. He was physically very ill and he had a tremendous amount of anxiety. One day he told me of how he coped with his anxiety (a hot water bottle on his stomach helped) and how much it unsettled him, he felt very vulnerable and depressed. Whenever I asked him how he was he always said “not too well”.

Veteran Affairs were a terrific organisation (they still are), they took care of a lot of things for him. VA even offered assistance to me because I was the child of a veteran (they too recognised that the children of veterans needed assistance). VA does amazing things for the returned servicemen and their families and their staff should be commended – it would be a very challenging job.

When my Dad passed away his funeral was a very sombre affair, a bugler and a piper played, our family was there (we had not seen each other in many years) and then we held a wake at the local RSL Club.

Afterwards whlst doing some research, I found the following tribute to him by one of his friends.

“A Goodbye to Paul”

“About a year ago, I went to the funeral of someone I had met briefly with a friend a few times over coffee. At the graveside funeral were just my friend, his wife, a couple of interstate relatives and the ‘compulsory’ Returned & Services League (RSL) officiate. Dead much too soon with no fanfare, no tears, and only the Last Post for his epitaph; something I found indescribably sad.

Paul Christopher Harrington
They laid you in a hole today
Put you to rest.
In reading your obituary I see
That you were only one month younger
Still than me.
A bugler played but Vietnam was
Oh so long ago
A piper piped
But you
Still had it with you we both know.
I hope you didn’t think
Back then,
When I marched with other sisters, mothers, lovers
That I felt any less of you
Or scorned what you yourself had tried to do.
Depression slays as sure as any foe
A bullet evil, insidious and slow.
You feel no more but more I feel for you
Regret for what you had, for what you cannot see.
They laid you in a hole today and
You were only one month younger
Still than me.

Tony White

ANZAC day is a very special day for all of those who have been involved in some way or other in the military. They should be recognised more often and they are heroes to me. I would love to see a day where there is no need for service men and service women though.

– Tracie

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Story Dogs – why are they important?

IMG_6293

Ruffy my mini labradoodle is in training to become a fully qualified Story Dog and I could not be any more proud.

Story Dogs is based on the successful American literacy program Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.). The R.E.A.D program was launched in 1999 in Utah USA, as the first comprehensive literacy program built around the appealing idea of children and young adolescents reading to dogs.

There are 2 reasons that I decided to become a volunteer for Story Dogs. The fist is that I had noticed since moving from a commercial office space to home that Ruffy had become a bored because she was not going out meeting new people and having as many new experiences as she used to in the office. I noticed that Ruffy was licking herself a lot more and had graduated to licking the furniture as well (beds, mattresses etc). So it was time to find her a new job. Also as a child I had struggled with comprehension and I remember being taken out of the class to have support. This changed my view of reading totally – I love reading and researching and resourcing, the library became a big part of my life as a child (before we had the internet).

Anyway, I researched dog charities and I found Story Dogs, let’s face it I love to learn and read and Ruffy loves children and going to new locations – what a great combination. I thought it would be a great match.

As part of the training it is necessary to visit a school in order to observe a volunteer in action. This was a huge eye opener. I thought that we would be sitting in a quiet place, assisting the kids to read, my experience was far more varied than I though it could ever be.

Simba-150x150

We firstly met a little girl who was about 6 (let’s call her Grace), she was lovely, well mannered and very polite.  Grace was having trouble with her spelling. The volunteer (let’s call her Carmel) assisted Grace with her words, showed her the pictures and really engaged her. You could see that Grace had a great connection with Carmel and that she absolutely loved the dog (let’s call her Nell). When the session had come to an end, Grace she was allowed to brush Nell, she cuddled her, played some games and tricks and we then took her back to her class room.

Our second child (Matt) was a bit more rambunctious, grumpy and highly intelligent. He cut through the book easily. I could tell that Carmel was definitely there for another reason. I expect that things were not going well at home and that he needed a connection outside of the class room, someone that he could confide in, that he could have a relationship with and some true one on one time. It was quite sad to realise that it was not just reading that we were here to help but that we were going to assist kids with their emotional side as well.

Carmel told me that for some kids that we meet we will be the only consistent adults in their lives. That is so sad, but true. Matt loved to play with the dog and he was terrific with Nell doing tricks and the he was brushing her. Matt had a great heart, he was just struggling emotionally with something.

Our final child (let’s call him Toby) was not to be found in his classroom, we asked around and finally we found him in the Reflections Room. This was a room where kids were placed when they needed to reflect on their behaviour and have a bit of time away from the classroom in order to learn to make better decisions.

Marlee-Chevvy-2013

Toby was about 7 and he was obviously a bit upset. Toby would not make any eye contact and was not willing to co-operate. He was obviously angry about something. However how can you stay angry when Nell places her paws on your knees and licks you? This is exactly what Nell did and Matt’s demeanour changed immediately. Even though his head was still pointed downwards, I could see a tiny sneaky smile – I do not think that we were supposed to see it.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to remove Toby from the Reflection Room however he now knew that at the start of the new school term he would be able to spend some time with Carmel and Nell. It seemed that the promise of spending time with them positively shifted his mood.

What an eye opening day!

If you would like to donate to Story Dogs or if you and your dog would like to be involved then please give me a call – 0405 540 646.

– Tracie

”Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire” – William Butler Yeats

Story Dogs is the spark to light the fire!

Golden’s Story