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Story Dogs – why are they important?

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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.

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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.

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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

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Easter Long Weekend – here we come

So our camping kit was packed and my 11 year old son (let’s call him my QT) was excited that he and his friend would be camping over the weekend.

I, on the other hand was already exhausted from going to see My Fair Lady the previous night, then packing and preparing as well as working (all of those working Mums out there know exactly I am talking about).

We had a fabulous time (4 great days) with terrific family friends up on the Sunny Coast. The caravan park we stayed in was dedicated to families. It was a little kids’ dream – pools, water slides, pony rides, petting zoo, great scooter paths, movies every night – everything that 11 year old kids love.

I am pleased to say that we are now safely home, exhausted and a little bit browner however we are safe.

Here is where I get to the point of my story, today one of my football Mum friends sent me a link on Facebook which shows the kind of damage that being distracted on the road can cause. It has really shocked me.

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A lorry driver in the UK was changing the music on his iPhone (whilst he was going 50mph (80.47kmph)). He drove straight into stationary traffic that was waiting to exit off the motorway. An entire family were killed in an instant. The footage was horrific and I cannot get it out of my head.

Here is the link if you want to find out more about this particular accident – actually I do not even think that you can call it an accident, this was just carnage!

I really wanted to remind everyone that as the Easter long weekend approaches to be aware of the precious cargo that you have on board and that the other families who are travelling next to you have on board.

We all know that you cannot control what others do on the road however we can control what we do.

The victim’s mother said that “it only takes a second of distraction to kill someone, destroying your life, your family’s lives, and those of your victim and their family”, this is absolutely true. If everyone takes a break, does not use their phone and drives diligently then I am sure that this year all of our families will return safely home.

Drive safely and remember double demerits!

Tracie

 

 

 

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Cyclone Debbie

It is hard to think that Cyclone Debbie has landed in far North Queensland and here we are 1000 kms south and the waters are perfect.

I am sure many of you have family and friends who are currently in the eye of the Cyclone or who will be in a matter of hours. It is truly worrying.

I was awake a lot last night checking my social media and watching the videos that people in FNQ had uploaded of the sheer ferocity of the wind. My eyes are a bit blurry this morning however it is reminding me so much of the anxiety that I felt watching the floods come into Brisbane in 2011. I cannot imagine how the families and the tourists are coping with this at the.

Whoever thought of buying kids ear muffs in order to ease the noise and their anxiety is a mastermind. My boy would have been driven to a panicked mess if he had to listen to that noise (which I have been told is like an air plane sitting next to your house).

I heard on the TV this morning that horse owners had written their mobile phone numbers on the sides of their horses in order to ensure that they could get them back as quickly as possible. #genius

QUEENSLAND CYCLONE DEBBIE

Living as a virtual cashless society must have caught a few people out (especially the tourists). I expect that the locals would have drained the banks of their cash reserves. Let’s face it if the areas does not have any electricity then the EFTPOS & ATM machines are not going to work. Cash will be king up there for a few days.

Anyway what started out as a little blog about the local water and how perfect it looked this morning has turned into a post about anxiety, cyclone hacks and challenges that the FNQ residents will have in front of them once this passes.

Good luck everyone in FNQ we are thinking of you and we share your pain.

Tracie