If you are a regular reader of this blog and website, you would see many examples of dogs doing amazing things to help people in the community. The MacKillop Family Services PawPals program is another example of this.

MacKillop Family Services supports at-risk children living in Melbourne’s west to engage in education through its Specialist Schools and education outreach services.

Education is the cornerstone of life and is something that every child should have the opportunity to make the most of. Unfortunately, many children and teenagers are not responding or are able to learn in a traditional school setting, so these specialist schools are suited to students with social and/or emotional behaviours that cannot be managed in a mainstream setting.

The curriculum is underpinned by a model that helps to ensure a safe learning environment is provided for children and young people impacted by trauma. By catering to a student’s learning and well-being needs they are able to develop a flexible, individualised program to prepare them academically and socially to return to mainstream education.

Helping them to achieve this is the PawPals, which is a canine-assisted learning program introduced as a pilot program in 2018. The impact of PawPals on children who find it difficult to engage with learning has been remarkable, so they have been fundraising to extend the program further.

In this weekend’s episode (ep 8) I visited their Maidstone specialist school to talk with the Principal Anne Henderson and meet a few of the dogs that are helping students feel safe and happy so that they can begin to learn again.

There’s a lot of research that shows therapy dogs can help people to stay relaxed in situations they can sometimes find confronting, so as part of the PawPals program, the dogs go into classes or stay by the side of students that find it difficult to interact with other students, whilst they also undertaken home visits to engage the kids in learning again.

It’s just another example of how amazing dogs are and how beneficial they are for our health. I am so glad we are able to share and celebrate some of the amazing work dogs are doing in the community through our TV show. I hope we can continue bringing you more of these wonderful stories with the support of our partners that you see us profiling on our show and this website.

The Pawpals program is funded through charitable grants, pubic and corporate donations. Earlier in 2019, the Paws 4 Kids campaign was launched, where partners including PETstock Assist matched public donations to help us raise $200,000 so they could bring four more dogs into the program.

They are now trying to raise another $50,000 for another assistance dog on board as demand does exceeded their capabilities, so if you would like to make a tax deductible donation to further their work visit the Paws 4 Kids website.

To find out more about the PETstock Assist Charity Foundation, and how your purchases at PETstock can help contribute to their community grant programs click here.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog training, minding and walking business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.