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Learning through teaching

Laura* didn’t expect to be teaching a dog to heel as part of her residential care education program. But now as she looks back, she’s even more surprised about what a dog has been able to teach her.

“Everything takes time in the end for everyone whether you’re human or animal. It’s a process, not everyone’s a fast learner, it takes time,” says Laura.

But Laura wasn’t always so sure-footed. That’s why Laura’s Education Outreach Worker, Sarah, decided that Canine Supported Therapy might be a great opportunity for Laura. At first, Laura wasn’t so sure about Sarah’s new plan. That is, until she met Millie, her therapy dog.

“Millie is a golden lab retriever. She’s on the big side for a lab, and she’s got huge paws. I absolutely adore them. The first time we met, she came running past and bulldozed me over. But she turned around and came back and made sure that I was ok.”

Despite that shaky first meeting, Millie and Laura became fast friends.

“I see Millie as my best friend, not just a dog I’m training with. She’s really bonded with me in the past 5 months that I’ve been working with her. She understands my emotions and I understand hers,” Laura said.

And it’s this mutual understanding that has made Laura’s relationship with Millie so important.

“It’s really made me feel much safer and confident. I used to be so quiet and in a shell, and I never used to come out. But knowing that Millie can be that support right beside me-- I feel like I can do anything.”

Working with Millie has taught Laura about her future career goals too.

“I’m pushing myself to work with animals… I really want to work with animals—that’s my passion.”

Now that Laura has experienced Canine Supported Therapy, she highly recommends it for other young people.

“I honestly recommend it for other young people who have experienced trauma in the past like me. It does bring out confidence, and it relaxes you. When I’m with Millie, it makes every bit of stress that I’m latching on to let go. It just goes. Working with Millie brings my day to a different level of happiness. I’ve never been as happy in my life when I see that dog.”

*Name changed to protect privacy.