Newest member of Heathcote Primary is sure to make hearts melt

By McIvor Times

Heathcote Primary School would like to introduce its newest member – Evie the wellbeing dog. Evie is a Groodle puppy and is sure to prove a much-loved and popular addition to the classroom. 
Heathcote Primary School was extremely fortunate to receive a grant through Bendigo Community Health Services and the School Focussed Youth Services program, which enabled the school to implement the ‘Dogs Connect’ program. 
Based in Bendigo, the Dogs Connect program is the brainchild of experienced schoolteacher Grant Shannon who identified the need for something more than the traditional educational program, something to help students feel more connected and engaged in the school environment.  
Grant’s passion for education drove him to research the benefits of training wellbeing dogs for the classroom and the Dogs Connect program was born. Since its inception, the program has been implemented in over 30 schools and the benefits have been remarkable, not just in terms of improving the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff but also in terms of improving students’ learning outcomes.
Principal of Heathcote Primary School Kate Ballantyne said the money allocated to implement the program at the school is used to cover the expenses incurred in looking after the dog and weekly onsite training for staff and students. 
Kate pointed out that “training the humans is a particularly important part of the program, it is essential the dog learns to relax in the school environment.”
Therefore, students will be taught appropriate behaviours to use while interacting with the wellbeing dog, such as greeting the person who has control of her leash, walking around her and giving her plenty of space, and taking care not to stop and stare at her.
Evie’s training only commenced two weeks ago, and Kate reports that things are going very well. “The humans are doing a great job in ensuring Evie is relaxed and settling in,” Kate said.
The primary school is delighted to have Evie as part of its team and would like to acknowledge the amazing support it has received from Bendigo Community Health Services, the School Focussed Youth Services Program, as well as Dogs Connect in introducing Evie and cementing her role at the school. We’re sure she will make a wonderful addition to the school community.