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Top marks for this teacher’s pet

Luna the two-year-old greyhound has settled into her first term at Gunbower Primary School.

Luna has become an important part of the small school community at Gunbower, which is in northern Victoria, not far from Echuca.

Principal, Judith Martin, adopted Luna from GAP and takes her to school two or three days each week to interact with students and teachers.

“Having her at school has been extremely positive, not just for the students but for the teachers as well,” Judith said. “She has lifted the mood of the whole school, even parents.”

Judith was the driving force behind the idea, with the support of the school council. She spent many hours researching the benefits of school dogs and reading about different dog breeds. She travelled to GAP headquarters in Seymour twice and attended GAP’s greyhound adoption day in Bendigo to find out more about greyhounds.

School dogs are a relatively new concept that is catching on in Australia and internationally. The concept is similar to therapy dogs which provide companionship to people in hospitals and nursing homes. Studies show that school dogs can relieve anxiety, help develop a sense of connection and motivate children.

Judith says Luna has been good for the students’ self-esteem and wellbeing. They are learning how to look after her, learning to share and they are socialising more with each other as they gather around Luna. When a child falls out with friend, Luna’s presence can quickly smooth things over.

Judith stresses that Luna was thoroughly temperament-tested as part of the GAP program.

“The kids get excited when they see her, they all want to pat her, but they know not to rush at her when she comes to school. She is calm and gentle and being a big dog there is a lot of her to pat and share around.”

Luna has her own quiet space in Judith’s office where she can rest. “I have to look after her too.”

Eventually Judith hopes to introduce Luna into reading time. Research indicates that some children feel more confident reading out loud to a friendly classroom canine which can lead to improved reading proficiency.

Judith said the small school, which has 50 students, feels like one big family, an impression that has been reinforced with the addition of Luna.