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Therapy dogs lend a helping ear to children in Darwin

Good Dog Animal Assisted Intervention superstars Roxy and Quinton make a comforting presence with their trainer Hannah Taino-Spick.

Two therapy dogs trained by a Charles Darwin University (CDU) Lecturer are quickly becoming Darwin celebrities, going from schools to libraries and courtrooms to support children and adults in need.

Roxy and Quinton are the star employees at the Good Dog Animal Assisted Intervention started by Hannah Taino-Spick, Social Work Lecturer and PhD student at CDU.

They regularly visit primary schools and libraries to support a literacy program, ‘Tales to Tails’, where children read to them to boost self-confidence.

“Roxy and Quinton support children in a non-judgemental way, so children are comfortable with their presence,” Ms Taino-Spick said.

“Children who are a bit shy or a little behind in literacy can drop that embarrassment and take ownership of their learning in a safe and supportive environment with the therapy dogs.”

The pair lends a helping ear to children at the Cities of Darwin and Palmerston libraries and Leanyer School. Children who have undergone the program have shown an improved level of literacy and confidence.

Ms Taino-Spick first had the idea about training therapy dogs when she left the military.

“I wanted to do something people-focused. A lot of veterans need help transitioning back to their life and we want to help them with it,” she said.

“I work in partnership with Roxy and Quinton, who have the personality and skills to make people feel at ease.”

Recently, Roxy and Quinton have also made appearances in court where they accompanied children going through their sentencing.

“Their presence lowers children’s anxiety and helps normalise their day. The court system can be quite foreign and rigid, and they just bring a sense a normality to the children involved,” Ms Taino-Spick said.

In fact, Roxy and Quinton are working closely with people in the justice system to help alleviate mental distress.

“They have an approach that is not judgemental towards people in incarceration. They are there to assist with their needs,” she said.

People with disabilities are also Roxy and Quinton’s clients.

“We work with people with complex and chronic disabilities. It has been a privilege to work with Roxy and Quinton to support the social needs of Territorians,” Ms Taino-Spick said.

As a Lecturer in Social Work, Ms Taino-Spick have brought the therapy dogs to her lectures at CDU to help students understand the variety of social work services available.

“They bring comfort, connection and curiosity with them. I also want to show my students that social work is a broad practice that can happen in every shape and form,” she said.

The pooches also visited CDU students during exam weeks to help take the stress off.

Roxy and Quinton were invited to the CDU Youth Futures Workshop in April. When one of the young audience members suddenly had a panic attack, Roxy immediately recognised the need and accompanied the young person throughout the event.

Ms Taino-Spick hopes to grow the team and expand their services in the future.

“We want to extend our services to the entire Northern Territory and work with military and veteran communities to support their transition.”