MAN’S best friend proved to be a godsend in keeping schoolchildren company during self-isolation, by helping the daily grind become a little more bearable.
As students were confronted with a totally new and at times daunting learning environment during recent weeks, dogs across the region helped youngsters get through the unsettling period and aided mental health.
With all students now back at school, children such as Nambrok’s Alyssa Alcock have had to leave their pets behind as they trade computer screens for classrooms.
Alyssa said her dogs had helped her get through isolation, but when asked if she was looking forward to going back to school replied with a definite “yes”.
“I miss my friends and too much screen time is making my eyes go square,” she said.
Alyssa’s mother Olivia said dogs had provided a great deal of cheer during the difficult isolation period.
“We had a litter of puppies born in early March so we call them our ‘iso pups’,” she said.
“You’ll go to feed them and there’s two missing and that’s because they’re in bed with the kids or they’re home schooling or Zooming with the kids.”
Olivia has spent most of her life involved with dogs, particularly greyhounds, and is committed to finding good homes for racing dogs once they retire through the Greyhound Adoption Program – an initiative of Greyhound Racing Victoria.
“With the Greyhound Adoption Program, once the greyhound has retired from racing the owner will do a lot of work with the dog to wind it down from a race environment,” Olivia explained.
“They go to the Greyhound Adoption Program, and from the Greyhound Adoption Program, they’ll go to their ‘forever home’.”
Greyhound Adoption Program facilitators such as Olivia take dogs on something of a transformation journey before they are assessed to see which dogs might be suited to potential owners.
“We usually have four to six weeks from when they retire to when they go to the Greyhound Adoption Program and then to their assessment, so there’s lots of time to train them from one lifestyle they’ve been used to their whole life to a completely different lifestyle,” Olivia said.
Olivia begins by introducing new greyhounds to her own little dog, and then takes them all for walks around Lake Guthridge and Lake Guyatt in Sale.
“They see lots of different things, whether it be big dogs, little dogs, fluffy dogs – there’s always different types of creatures walking around the lake two or three times a week,” she said.
The program has proven a hit, highlighted by the number of greyhounds now taking their place as pets after their racing careers are over.
“It’s extremely successful; the last few years it’s seen a real increase in greyhounds becoming pets and you can see that locally just by walking around the lake,” Olivia said.
“A greyhound can fit all different moulds, depending on what the dog’s like.
“Greyhounds, generally, for their whole life are with other dogs, so some dogs like to stay with a friend or some are happy to be by themselves.”
Racing greyhound owners are expected to plan ‘end of career’ options for their greyhounds.
To find out more about the program, visit gap.grv.org.au.