The children and staff at Mater Dei School in Camden recently welcomed a new addition to their school – Maisy the wellbeing support dog. While it’s still early days, Australian Cobberdog Maisy is proving quite the hit. She was made possible through fundraising by the Mater Dei Foundation Annual Foundation Dinner, including a ClubGRANT from Ingleburn RSL Club.
Long term relationship
In early 2022, the Mater Dei School Principal learned of the success of companion animal programs in similar schools that cater to children with specific needs. Spurred on by this success, funding a wellbeing support dog for Mater Dei School became a top priority.
“The scientific research about dog companionship shows that there are benefits for everybody, particularly for children who suffer from anxiety” says Sarah Ryan, Mater Dei Director of Development. “We could see the benefits and wanted to commit to this as a long term project.”
Mater Dei is a small school with less than 150 students. But the school is purposefully small to meet the needs of the students who have a mild to moderate intellectual disability as their primary disability.
“Support from community organisations helps us to continue the great programs that we offer for our families and children,” says Sarah. “Ingleburn RSL Club was part of helping us to achieve our goal of funding a wellbeing support animal program for three years.”
Glenn Cushion, Ingleburn RSL Club CEO, acknowledges the long term relationship between the club and the school.
“This ClubGRANT that has helped to fund Maisy isn’t the first we’ve awarded to the school,” says Glenn. “Over the years we’ve contributed to other projects, including an upgrade of the primary school playground. We know that each ClubGRANT makes such a difference to the school and its community.”
The school was abuzz with excitement with Maisy’s arrival. Sarah explains that the process to introduce her to the school and students is quite involved.
“Maisy is trained specifically as a support dog,” she says. “Obviously puppies are very enthusiastic and need a lot of training. When she first came to the school, she didn’t interact with anybody and it was just an opportunity for her to feel comfortable in the environment. Then we slowly started to introduce her to the classrooms. Interacting with the students will be the last step in the process. We are also teaching the students how to interact with her.”
Eventually, Maisy will be on site at Mater Dei School three days each week. On the other days, she is with her trainer continuing her training.