Unicorn dog wins the day
Fred de Falbe on why pups and pupils are a good mix
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?