Dr Selkie has been hard at work this term. She has helped to cure Alexander of a long-term case of cynophobia: the fear of dogs.
Even before Alex started at BPS, in September 2017, he showed his great fear of dogs. He came to sit an assessment for a place at the school and, when he came downstairs from the room where he was doing his tests, he happened upon Selkie. Never have you seen a boy move so fast in the opposite direction! He attended a course at his old school when his phobia was at its height, but it didn’t work.
Over the summer break, Alex signed himself up for another cynophobia course. He attended five sessions at a centre crammed with his worst nightmare: a wide variety of dogs. Over time, he gradually built up confidence to tackle his fear. Initially he could choose either to try and stroke, or walk, a dog of his choice, although he was allowed to opt out at any time. He was able to select the dog he felt most comfortable with: he chose a Lhasa Apso called Tashie. After stroking and walking him he could go inside, or stay outside, to play some games with him. He groomed him and built up the confidence to pet him without the assistance of one of the counsellors.
After the third session, he began to feel more confident and managed to participate in all the activities. He built up the confidence to interact with other breeds: Meghan: a German Shepherd; a Labrador, called Isla and a Cockapoo named Sam.
But the greatest challenge remained: to return to school and stroke Selkie. Alex was nervous about this challenge on his first day back: there were too many other new things to get used to. But on Day 2, he came to the Headmaster’s office to see Selkie and, with a gulp, managed to stroke her. Mission accomplished! Alex told me afterwards he felt proud of himself.
Charlie (Y8) sadly lost his mum last year. In the weeks after she passed away, Charlie arrived early at school and the first ‘person’ he met was Selkie. Then, and now, he has found her very calm. He likes the way she treats you like a special friend. When he’s feeling down, she’s always there when he comes to the office to hand in his mobile phone. He says she automatically knows she’s going to get a tummy scratch from him. They have formed a close bond.