Gus the Labrador is bringing joy to Gowrie Broadmeadows
The Sector > Provider > General News > Gus the Labrador is bringing therapy dog skills to Gowrie Broadmeadows Valley

Gus the Labrador is bringing therapy dog skills to Gowrie Broadmeadows Valley

by Freya Lucas

September 12, 2023

For the children and educators of Gowrie Broadmeadows Valley, Educational Leader Hannah Fruin brings many wonderful things to their service, including her loveable labrador Gus.  Gus was introduced to the service earlier this year, and is a fully certified therapy dog, having completed the therapy dog training program through Lead the Way Institute last year. 


Gus’ initial training and assessment was funded through an AGECS Fellowship Grant and in April this year Gus and Hannah qualified as a fully certified Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team.


Ms Fruin has slowly rolled out the Therapy Dog Program at Broadmeadows Valley to ensure the community feels comfortable with the presence of a dog, and says families have been very supportive of the program but assures them that anyone who is not comfortable around dogs does not have to interact with Gus.


For parent Tash, having Gus in the centre has been a great way to help her children (who have always wanted a dog) see the amount of care a dog needs, and that dogs have needs just like humans. 


“Gus has inspired so much conversation in our home,” Tash continued. 


For fellow parent Sarah, having Gus in the centre has helped her children to become more confident around animals, and to pay careful attention to instructions. 


“Both my girls have had the opportunity to be a part of Gus’s journey and learning,” she said, “and one of my girls felt confident with Gus to express her emotions and her worries.”


A day in the life of Gus


Children have been engaging with Gus, taking him on walks in the local community, Ms Fruin explained. 


“The clear expectations we have set for the children about how we need to behave around Gus have supported children to regulate themselves, as they understand that we need to be calm and gentle around Gus to make sure he is feeling happy when he is with us,” she said. 


“For children who need extra support to regulate their emotions, this has been invaluable.”


The program has already shown many benefits to children’s wellbeing and sense of belonging. 


“Some of our children need lots of support to transition into the service, particularly if their family is being supported by a wraparound service such as domestic violence support or child protection,” Ms Fruin said. “Having Gus there to greet children and walk to their rooms with them means that they can begin their day with us feeling much calmer.”


For other children, it’s the simple joy in asking Gus to ‘sit’, shaking his paw as he offers it, or giving him a treat. 


“It encourages a reciprocal, respectful relationship, and the positive feeling of being heard, listened to, and valued by a four-legged friend,” she continued. “For some of the children in our community, the positive relationship they have with Gus provides some consistency and reliability in their, at times, uncertain lives.”


Children engaging with Gus often share their favourite stories with him and spend time brushing him. “This provides an engaging, sensory moment as they feel his soft coat and see the lines the brush makes in his fur.” 


A sign-in display at the entrance to the service tells children if Gus is at the service, or if he is resting at home for the day. 


“Many of the children who have enjoyed spending time with Gus often ask on the days he does not attend when they will see him next, with a real sense of having something to look forward to,” she added.


Later this year, Gus will also provide emotional support for children transitioning to school, standing by the entrance to school, giving children and families a friendly space in a new and uncertain environment. 


One of the teachers at the neighbouring school was so inspired by Gus’ support that they have been investigating the training process for their own puppy in the hopes of implementing a Therapy Dog Program at the school in future.


Read the original coverage of this story here.

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