She had become so reactionary and violent that she was only allowed to attend school one half day each week and just one on one with a teacher.
On a small spot of earth, just beyond Bendigo, Victoria, a group of ordinary, everyday people are changing the lives of these two children and thousands of others. It’s an inspirational story.
What began as a vision to reach out to children struggling with health or life issues using the powerful connection with puppies, has blossomed into an organisation called Righteous Pups, which to date has helped 5000 young people through animal assisted therapy.
The dogs are trained for approximately two years at a cost of $29,000 per dog and then the real miracles begin.
And these trained puppies are also being used to help children with Type 2 diabetes.
Then there are the traumatised children, like the six year old who has experienced 49 homes in his short life, oh my heart broke when I heard his story. But working alongside a counsellor, the dog and his trainer can help these children process and reestablish their lives. They bond with the dog and learn important skills, like trust. It's a slow process but one that can free a child to live a much more settled and successful life.
These young people are able to spend one school day each week at Righteous Pups, learning to care for and eventually help train the puppies. For many of them it's their first taste of community and achievement and gives them a sense of worth and motivation.
One young man who was causing constant interruptions at school because he was finding it difficult to concentrate and sit still was given a dog to train that had the same personality. The boy got frustrated at the dogs inability to follow orders and his restlessness. Slowly he came to realise the frustration his teachers must be feeling. He learned from experience what words could never have taught him.
And now the organisation is gearing up to train court dogs.
Court is a terrifying place for a child and if they have to relive the horror of a crime they witnessed or an abuse they experienced, it can be extremely traumatic. In the USA they have found that a trained dog can reduce stress and cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and let the child feel they are not alone.
Often the child will feel able to tell the dog what happened rather than the trauma of opening up to a stranger, something many of them can't do. The dogs are permitted to sit with the child in the witness box and just being able to pat the dog somehow brings a sense of calm and comfort that enables them to cope. Often it’s the first step in helping them rebuild their lives.
It's a beautiful thing to witness the changes in these children and to realise how different their futures will be because of someone's vision and the dedication of a team of ordinary but exceptional people.
They are leaving a legacy in flesh and blood. Changed lives that can lead to changed generations and they will never know the reach of their passion and commitment into the future.
Read more of their story.