New therapy dog at St Catherine’s

St Catherine’s School in Ventnor has recently welcomed a new therapy dog from Isle of Wight charity, Ability Dogs 4 Young People.

Their new dog, Dougal, an Australian Labradoodle, has been trained by the charity for two years and now provides support to pupils at the specialist speech and language school.

The puppy was sponsored by Island Roads, which raised more than £2,700 in 2018 through staff fund-raising events, which covered the cost of Dougal and also contributed towards his training.

Dougal’s role as a school therapy dog includes going into lessons and supporting one-to-one occupational therapy sessions with students, supervised by his handler, Abbie Steel. In particular, he helps students to communicate by acting as a common interest and helps those who struggle to attend school by meeting them when they arrive and walking with them to the classroom. He also helps students to self-regulate and manage their emotions – stroking him can calm them and give them something else to focus on.

Principal, Sarah Thompson, said: “Dougal has become an important member of our school community. Overall, he has had a huge impact on the wellbeing of the students and staff at St Catherine’s.”

Island Roads highways inspector, Paul Bailey, won a staff competition to name Dougal. He said: “As well as Dougal being a great name for a dog, I thought about its association with the well-known children’s TV show, The Magic Roundabout. I enjoyed watching it as a child and it provided a fun link to the highways work we undertake at Island Roads. It is lovely to see Dougal settling into his new role so well and providing much needed support and comfort to the children at St Catherine’s.”

Carol Court, of Ability Dogs 4 Young People, said: “Training School Therapy Ability Dogs is an important part of the charity’s work. The number of schools involved with this scheme has multiplied since 2020 and we are very proud that Dougal fits the bill. Cookie and Daisy are also Ability Dog School Therapy Dogs helping pupils and staff at St Thomas of Canterbury and Love Lane primary schools. It is heart-warming to see how they are improving lives and everyone at the schools love them.”