LJ the dog helping break down barriers for Mater Dei College students

Counsellor Janine Hanlon, Keely Lynch with LJ, school principal Annette Morey, Peter Todd and counsellor Maddie Guggisberg. Picture: Martin Kennealey d474601
Counsellor Janine Hanlon, Keely Lynch with LJ, school principal Annette Morey, Peter Todd and counsellor Maddie Guggisberg. Picture: Martin Kennealey d474601

FLUFFY, one-eyed LJ is helping break down barriers for students at an Edgewater school.

The six-year-old Maltese cross canine has started attending Mater Dei College with owner and school counsellor Janine Hanlon.

Ms Hanlon previously worked with young family and domestic violence victims at the Patricia Giles Centre and saw the positive effects of animal interactions through its Building Animal Relationships with Kids (BARK) program.

LJ sits in on counselling sessions with students one day a week and is there for them to pat and cuddle if needed.

“He’s there to just support the children,” Ms Hanlon said.

“He’s kind of an ice breaker I guess and a comfort.

“I think because I’ve worked with kids and trauma a long time… I just saw huge improvement with kids and their relationships with animals.”

She believed students could benefit from reduced stress levels and improved mood and communication.

“The research supports that it reduces stress having a pet,” she said.

“I’m hoping all of those will benefit the kids coming into sessions.”

RSPCA WA assessed LJ and found him suitable to work with children under supervision and Ms Hanlon believed he was ideal for the role.

“He’s quite social and likes to come say hi,” she said.

“He’s very calm and sensible.

“He’s a very smart dog, he seems to pick up on a lot.”

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