Imagine going back to school and having a dog in your classroom!
For a group of little ones in Norwich, it’s a reality as Hetty the retired Greyhound is helping them learn to read.
Nine-year-old Hetty was forced to give up racing after fracturing her leg.
She went to the Yarmouth Greyhound Homefinders charity and won the heart of shelter volunteer David Jones.
The retired headteacher was approached by Hillside Avenue Primary and Nursery School, near Norwich, about taking Hetty into class. They thought she’d be ideal to hear the reception children read – and since then she’s made dozens of new friends.
“The teachers had heard about other schools having greyhounds in to visit and work with pupils and asked if I would take Hetty along.”
“We showed the children a film of her racing and told them her story and they absolutely love her,” said David, 71, who has owned Hetty for five years.
“They come in little groups to read and it’s really encouraging for them.
“As a dog, Hetty is non-judgemental. When they are reading, she’s not going to tell them off, or say they are wrong, she just sits there and listens.
“Sometimes she even goes to sleep! She’s a complete sofa loafer.”
Yarmouth Greyhound Homefinders is a charity which helps find new owners for dogs, for whatever reason, can no longer race.
David ran the Great Yarmouth Shelter for seven years where he helped to find homes for more than 1,000 dogs.
He says the breed is incredibly gentle, which makes it an ideal choice for a therapy dog.
“Greyhounds are working dogs, but they are also very gentle and not at all mad like Springer Spaniels or Collies,” he explains.
“In fact they are the laziest dogs in the world and would much rather sleep – they are not built for stamina.
“When you think about it, they race for just around 28 seconds and then that’s it.”
Hetty performed well during her time on the track.
But sadly she fractured her leg while running round the stadium one day when she wasn’t actually competing.
Her injury meant she could no longer race competitively and for that reason her owner was unable to keep her.
It looks like Hetty has landed on her paws now though with a loving owner and lots of adoring friends.
Proud David said he loves seeing her around the youngsters.
“I trust Hetty implicitly,” he said. “We’ve only been going into the school for two terms but the parents absolutely love what is going on too.
“The children are so happy to see her and talk about her all the time.”
Hetty listens intently in the reading corner
Hetty helping the children learn to read has led to donations to the charity too.
Two little boys aged four and five asked their mums if they could do the washing up and vacuuming to raise money for the charity.
David said: “They collected £5 and presented it to Hetty which was lovely.
“There are also those children who are a little wary of dogs.
“Meeting Hetty and having her in school has helped them overcome their fears, which is great to see.
“I never thought I would go back into schools either, but seeing the children and their reaction is wonderful, they absolutely love having Hetty in.”
Hetty’s story is a guest post by freelance journalist Kate Chapman, who is based in Lincolnshire.
She loves writing about animals and agriculture and you can see her work on her website www.kate-chapman.co.uk
Does your dog have an interesting role like Hetty? I’d love to hear about it, so click here to contact me or leave a comment below.