After the success of the 2019 visit from the Paws the Pressure Therapy Dogs, Somerville House welcomed Monty the Dog as the face of its Little Paws Big Impact program. Initially trialled with the Year 12 students during Term 1, the wellbeing initiative is quickly becoming core business for the School.
Mrs Kim Kiepe recalls her first encounter with Monty, remembering the feeling of calm and joy that remained once Monty had left her office. “Taking a moment to pause, reflect, breathe and smile, is often overlooked or simply forgotten in the midst of our busy lives”, Mrs Kiepe said. “Dogs can play an important role in helping us release the natural ‘feel-good’ hormone, and consequently promoting contentment and relieving stress,” she said. “Monty left a lasting impression on me, and one which inspired me to consider the benefits she could impart on our students”.
A trained companion Labrador retriever, Monty the Dog is fast becoming part of the green sisterhood, focusing much of her attention on the wellbeing of the students as she makes her rounds of the campus. In her own ‘Robyn Ready Original’ designer Senior jersey and bandana, Monty spends many break times with the students, enjoying the excited chorus of “Monty! Monty!” as she wanders the Mall and Sacred Lawn.
In our current climate of change and uncertainty, Monty the Dog is consistent in her interactions with the students. She sits with girls who need one-on-one attention, calmly accepting their pats and scratches, while quietly listening to their concerns and thoughts.
Year 12 student, Hilary Barrett, believes that Monty has been the best addition to our Somerville House family. “Her sweet and happy nature brightens each and every student’s day,” Hilary said. “Her warm presence and hugs help us to release our stress for upcoming assessments as well as improve our overall wellbeing,” she said. “We love Monty!”
During the application of off-campus learning via Somerville@HOME, Monty continued in her duties of wellbeing, transferring her focus from students to staff. Mr Clayton Forno, Head of Department – Languages, admits that in a busy work environment such as ours, Monty has been so incredibly welcome. “Dogs, particularly those as beautifully-natured as Monty, remind us daily of the essentials in life – love, loyalty, connectedness, gentleness, and gratefulness,” Mr Forno said. “I think Monty has reminded us to live in the moment and to delight in the little things.”
The gradual return of students to the School over the past few weeks has been exciting for Monty, with the realisation she can indulge in pats and affection from the girls once again. Cerys Williams-Jones recalls her first week back on campus after four weeks of learning at home. She was joined by her fellow classmates, all full of nervous excitement, and greeted by Monty on their arrival. “Monty has been a loveable friend to our Year 12 cohort, visiting us almost every morning tea and lunch,” Cerys said.
“This spread smiles across faces,” she said. “During peak assessment periods, our stress levels can be high, but seeing Monty helps with this significantly. Giving her a pat and hug is truly heart-warming for all of us.”
As all students returned to school on Monday 25 May, so did Monty’s role as the face of the Little Paws Big Impact program, with a direct mission to support our students in returning to a sense of normality. Put perfectly by Mrs Michelle Crouch, Head of Department – Drama: “A quick pat, tail wag, human giggles, a lap of the room and she moves off with purpose to affect the next human with a hello and positive affirmation.”
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