DAE's newest recruit and the newest addition to the Gold Coast Story Dogs team, Pearl the Girl is one pooch that is becoming quite the local celebrity.
The pug might be small, but Pearl has a big personality and has been working hard alongside her owner Belinda Wishart, from the DAE Global Support Team, to make a difference in the community.
Story Dogs, the initiative born south of the border in Murwillumbah aims to not only make reading fun for children, but help them become confident in literacy by reading to a dog.
It’s no surprises that reading to man’s best friend has produced positive results, increased skills and assisted students in relaxing and not feeling judged.
Belinda was motivated by the love of listening to her daughter, Olive, read, as well as the love for her fur baby Pearl and wanted to give back to her daughter’s school, Miami Primary.
“When I heard about the Story Dog Program I thought it was the perfect way I could combine both these passions while giving back to the community and the school that has supported and nurtured my daughter’s academic growth,” she said.
“The school was thrilled with the idea so I took the steps to apply as a Story Dog volunteer.”
Pearl Goes to School
In order to ensure that she was suitable as a Story Dog, Pearl had to go back to school herself and undergo a series of tests covering areas such as greeting behaviour, appearance, being handled, walking on a leash, walking past food in a lunch box and reactions to distractions.
“With Pearl being a pug, who are very food orientated, I was most worried about the lunch box test. Although pugs are also cunning by nature I thought she might pretend she didn’t see it and make a plan to come back to it later.”
“However, she listened to my command to “leave it” and to my delight Pearl passed all tests and we were given the clearance that she could become a Story Dog!”
The process led Belinda to an observation day where she met Story Dog volunteer Faye Rowles and her Maltese terrier, Charlie.
“It was interesting to watch how excited the students were about reading when they knew Charlie was waiting for them.”
“I left the training feeling very excited and committed about becoming a Story Dog volunteer.”
New Pup on the Block
In November 2016 and with her uniform on, Pearl embarked on her first day of school, where, alongside Belinda, she sat under a tree in the playground and listened to five students read.
“Pearl happily interacted with all 5 students and enjoyed relaxing on the blanket whilst they read to her.”
“The most satisfying aspect was seeing the students’ faces light up when they saw Pearl.”
“The only issue was that I left the last session too late and the bell rang – which meant we were very shortly mobbed by students and Pearl became quite the celebrity!”
Pearl’s Biggest Fans
Belinda approached DAE CEO’s Francis Taylor and Classic Holidays’ CCO Mark Stephenson about their interest in sponsoring Pearl and Story Dogs, to which they both happily agreed following their company initiative to support and foster staff engagement in various volunteering programs.
“I am very grateful to be given this opportunity,” said Belinda. “This sponsorship is beneficial in two ways; it supports a volunteering organisation in line with our core values, and a school in our local area also benefits.”
Belinda is very optimistic that Pearl will be returning to Miami Primary School in 2017 to continue her journey as a Story Dog, when she’ll be ready to sport her new DAE and Classic Holidays jacket to show off to the students.
For more information about Story Dogs or to view the Gold Coast team, including Belinda and Pearl’s profile, visit http://storydogs.org.au/dog-teams/gold-coast-south-teams/