The pair arrived at the correctional centre as young puppies and were placed carefully with inmates in the facility’s residence area. The dogs have spent six months in the correctional centre being taught a variety of tasks including wheelchair work, opening doors, picking up dropped items and turning on lights in readiness for life with a special needs child. The dogs spend their work week training with the inmates and have foster families who care for them on weekends enabling community socialisation and familiarisation of other environments.
The Smart Pups organisation also trains dogs to support children with anxiety, diabetes and mobility problems and to be able to recognise and alert approaching seizures.
Waylan and Wesley will be placed with their forever family supporting a child with a disability once they have completed their training and graduated from the program. Spending time in the school environment prepares these amazing dogs with for the unique sights, sounds and smells of a school environment before they go to support their new special needs child in their home, in the community and especially at school. Trained dogs are carefully matched to a child with a disability and can end up anywhere in Australia with their new family.
Sunshine Beach State School is dedicated to raising awareness about the valuable role these Assistance Dogs play in the day to day lives of children with special needs. Over the past five years, the school has welcomed seventeen Smart Pups in training. Having these special dogs at Sunshine Beach State School enriches the lives of not only the learners in the class but many other learners as well, as they have the opportunity to interact with the dogs at break times in a designated and supervised area.
Teacher Carol Sharpe said, "It is a win-win situation training Smart Pups at Sunshine Beach State School. The Smart Pup receives the essential training in the school environment and the Sunshine Beach students discover how Smart Pups can assist children with disabilities, enhancing the learner’s empathy and understanding of those with special needs. Over the years it has become obvious that having a Smart Pup in the classroom creates a calming environment resulting in a more focused and enhanced learning environment."
Smart Pups receive no official funding from the Government and relies on donations, grants and fundraising activities to continue the program. If you are interested in fostering one of these beautiful dogs please contact Smart Pups. "It is so rewarding! That’s why I do it over and over and over again," says Carol who has fostered over 21 Smart Pups to date.
Photo: Smart Pups trainer Ella and dogs Waylan and Wesley with students from Sunshine Beach State School.