My name is Sandy Childs, I am the ex head of Outreach for the Secondary Behaviour Service in the London Borough of Enfield. Google worked in Enfield schools for over eight years, inspiring young people through assemblies, demonstrations, lessons, science days and his literacy project. He will have been seen by over twenty five thousand young people.
In October 2015 he moved to the beautiful Lake District to run Wheelgate B&B and Coniston Cottages Ltd. Google is enjoying his new life meeting and greeting guests, but he still goes into schools to demonstrate his skills. As he slows down into semi-retirement, younger brother Jeeves, his apprentice, is coming with us to learn the ropes, ready to step up when the time arrives.
During my time working in a school for children with Special Educational Needs I was privileged to work with and share a Yellow Labrador called Nadia, she was the inspiration to develop further the work that dogs can do in schools. The impact she had on the children in the school was immeasurable. She truly was the best teaching resource I ever had – until Google came along.
Google, a Golden Retriever, is a very special dog. His calm and gentle demeanour, coupled with his innate intelligence, makes him an exceptional teaching resource. He was trained by Chris Mancini of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers UK, (APDT). The organisation promotes the use of kind, fair and effective methods using clicker training. Google has developed into a unique dog, with amazing perceptive qualities.
Google’s abilities include being a demonstration assistance dog with the charity Dog A.I.D (Assistance in Disability.) As their ambassador and demonstration dog he represents the charity at a variety of events and goes into school under this umbrella. Every year Google and I are re-assessed in order to maintain his high standards.
Work in schools began with Google demonstrating his assistance dog skills in assemblies. Soon we were being asked, ‘how does he learn to do that?’ This resulted in the ‘Learn to Learn’ lessons being developed, where he demonstrates he learns in a similar way to us. Google has been a member of the APDT ’All Stars’ team performing at Crufts for 4 years. Part of his routine has been reading! This has been incorporated into assemblies and lessons in schools.
Having seen the impact both Nadia and Google have had on children I had the idea to develop a literacy project. Poor literacy is not only one of the biggest barriers to learning but often leads to poor behaviour. I enlisted the help of a retired ex colleague who had been the head of English; Lindy Jones, author of ‘The Voice in My Head is Perfect’.
Together we wrote a 6 – 8 week programme which not only encourages children to read, but also develops their writing and their social and emotional intelligence. Having been successful in running the programme in a number of schools, both primary and secondary in Enfield, the demand has increased.
At the moment, while Google is not the only dog to go into schools to be read to. He is the only dog we know that goes into school and reads! Through our new association with The Kennel Club’s Bark and Read Foundation we have been able to build this website and publish our book, ‘The Bear Bones of Behaviour.’ This allows Google’s influence to reach a wider audience and for the learners to be able to stay in touch and hopefully help to maintain their motivation and enthusiasm to: Keep on reading and learning.