Uni­corn dog wins the day

Fred de Falbe on why pups and pupils are a good mix

EDP Norfolk - - FROM THE HEADMASTER’S OFFICE -

My first ar­ti­cle, three years ago, fea­tured our then new­est mem­ber of staff, Solo, our Labrador-spaniel cross. He has done ster­ling work as dogs tend to, be­ing a loyal, un­judg­men­tal and en­ter­tain­ing friend to all, par­tic­u­larly those in pos­ses­sion of a ten­nis ball!

There are chil­dren who might want some quiet time; putting Solo on a lead and tak­ing him for a quick walk is an ideal and calm­ing ac­tiv­ity. Dogs draw out the friend­ship of oth­ers but can be equally valu­able in com­pan­ion­able si­lence.

The tone of the ar­ti­cle was quite jokey, even though the be­nign ef­fects of dogs on a com­mu­nity such as our school is a se­ri­ous mat­ter, in my view. Three years on and we have just had our in­au­gu­ral Bee­ston Fam­ily Dog Show, thanks to the en­er­getic Friends of Bee­ston (the PTA).

Even in a pro-dog school there were some Doubt­ing Thomases about the prospect of 30 or so dogs gath­ered around a grassy patch of ten­nis court size, hemmed in by chil­dren and par­ents. With the fore­cast gloomy and a heavy down­pour at 3pm, the af­ter­noon looked ‘in the bal­ance’, with that quintessen­tially English scene of ev­ery­one press­ing on with a sum­mer ac­tiv­ity pro­tected by um­brel­las!

This put paid to the agility and fetch classes, set up in the woods,

but the main ring saw sev­eral dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tions, among them those old favourites: ‘dog most like its owner’ and ‘fancy dress’.

WC Field’s old adage ‘never work with dogs and chil­dren’ could not have been more wrong. De­spite the draw­backs, there was not one in­ci­dence of dogs haul­ing small chil­dren through crowds or fur­ni­ture, or tan­gled leads and mis­un­der­stand­ings (aka fights!)

The hard work and prepa­ra­tion of par­ents and staff – and per­haps di­vine Grace – en­sured that, soon enough, the clouds parted and the event fin­ished in warm sun­shine, with a uni­corn dressed ter­rier scoop­ing the top prize. It was a won­der­fully in­clu­sive, hi­lar­i­ous event, with our core val­ues at the base: get­ting on with each other, tak­ing (but as­sess­ing) a risk, recog­nis­ing and cel­e­brat­ing dif­fer­ence, self­dis­ci­pline, work­ing to­gether and pre­sent­ing ‘on stage’ in public, with a part­ner.

At a re­cent area safe­guard­ing meet­ing there was a dis­cus­sion of strate­gies that schools have in place to sup­port fam­i­lies, and much was made of a fel­low school’s in­tro­duc­tion of a school dog. It made me very proud of the fact that our school dog quota has risen to ten be­cause of the man­i­fest im­prove­ment of well­be­ing. Staff ap­pre­ci­ate it, of course, but more im­por­tantly, the chil­dren value and in­ter­act with those of the dif­fer­ent teach­ers – each, in­evitably, with their dif­fer­ent style and size – who en­sure ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment is go­ing on all day, in such a mul­ti­tude of ways. It made me even more proud that the chil­dren and par­ents raised much needed funds for EACH’s nook ap­peal.

TOP: The first Bee­ston Fam­ily Dog Show

ABOVE: A ter­rier dressed as a uni­corn – and why not?

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