There was an air of both excitement and trepidation on Fridays in Coiscéim last year as we eagerly awaited a visit from one of our four legged friends! The idea came to me when Siobhan Quinn, (SNA) and I were visiting Áras an Uachtaráin with some of our students. I noticed President Higgins’s dogs, Bród and Síoda welcoming visitors and it struck me that having a dog in Coiscéim would be very therapeutic for students and staff alike.

We offer a short course, called ‘Caring for Animals’ as part of our Junior Cycle programme. I felt it would be a fantastic opportunity for our students to put into practice the skills they were learning in this programme. I received an invitation from the Cork Guide Dogs to attend their open day. Breeda O’ Neill, (Coiscéim teacher) and I accompanied students and parents to Cork where we had a very enjoyable

day. We met the newly appointed Lord Mayor of Cork, John Sheehan, (August 2019). We purchased items that we would need to care for our visiting dogs and enjoyed watching the staff putting the dogs in training through their paces.

The students surveyed the staff in Scoil Ruáin to see if anyone would be interested in bringing their dog to school. They also had to determine if the dog’s temperaments would suit our setting. The dogs came in to us on a weekly rotation. Lisa, a TY student in Scoil Ruain, also volunteered to bring in her dog, Poppy. The dog visits proved extremely popular among the student body in Scoil Ruáin. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I asked people from our local community to engage in the programme as well. The students had the opportunity to visit Tara’s Grooming studios in Killenaule, where we observed Tara giving a wash, cut and blow dry to two of her customers! Marie Maher, (SNA) and I accompanied our students on a visit to ‘Paws’ Dog Rescue Centre, Mullinahone, to learn practical tips on how to care for a dog. Sarah, the manager demonstrated how to walk a dog safely. The students found it to be a very valuable experience.

We look forward to welcoming, Ollie, Gidget, Ruby, Jessie, Hunter, Bella, Poppy and Charlie back to Coiscéim in the New Year. We take a holistic approach when planning for our ASD students in Scoil Ruain and the dogs help to promote a sense of wellbeing among students and staff. (Breda Dwyer, ASD Coordinator).