Interesting dog facts – a child’s perspective

This article was written by Angela Weller,
General Manager Therapeutic Services
at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

 

In our work with children, we often learn things, and always want to hear their voices and the things that matter to them.

Yesterday I met Emily*, a young girl who shared with me some interesting facts about dogs. Two of the most important ones were

  • Dogs can be happy without wagging their tail
  • When a dog growls, it is their polite voice most times

My learning of these important facts came about in a meeting arranged by Therapeutic Specialist Jenny Gay, who had been working with Emily, her foster family and the family dog Max for the previous two years. In coming to the end of the work, she asked Jenny if she could speak to a manager about the importance of Max during the therapeutic work. Emily and Max all came to Mitcham and began the meeting with a plate of donuts and a lot of tail wagging!!

This meeting manifested Emily’s ambition to show someone how Max had helped her. She created a PowerPoint which beautifully and visually captured the significance of Max in her life. He had helped Emily to be calm, know her feelings and read the feelings of others. She presented this with immense pride with regular live demonstrations with Max of the points she was making.

Also, during this meeting, the connection between intuition and care between her, Max and her carer were both evident and reciprocal. The relationship between Emily and Max had been carefully nurtured by her carer, who had her own special way of knowing important things about Emily. This little girl had found a language of love play and reciprocity in this relationship. Her important dog facts were also important facts about her. The showed us ways to notice understand and care for Emily too.

Jenny, the Therapeutic Specialist, had been another member of this important team enabling Emily to feel safe loved and in sync with others. Jenny ensured that Emily’s voice was also woven into the work enabling her to be involved in important therapeutic conversations. This work and program are remarkable examples of how relationships with and around children can support them to find proud and confident identities.

I asked Emily if I could share with others, our meeting, her presentation and how much she had grown to feel calm and safe in her world. She replied that she would love for her PowerPoint to be shown to other children to help them tell the world about things that matter to them.

It was an experience that I will treasure, as it powerfully showed how relationships with people and animals can transform and empower children. How being witness to a child’s pride enlivens them.

How playing and being held and understood calms them.

While this is a story and learning about dogs, it is as much a story about children. A story of how when they are offered love support and fun, children can find languages, connections and important facts that transform their lives.

*All names and identifying features have been changed to protect the privacy of this family.