St Aidan’s CE Primary School welcomed a special four-legged visitor onto the school premises earlier this week.
Pippa, a therapy dog, and her handler, Ali, received a very warm welcome from pupils and staff as they came into the school, with everyone keen to catch a glimpse of their furry friend again.
Pippa and Ali make up part of a therapeutic service called Hope’s Therapy Dogs – a new enterprise for the St Helens area. Their story started back in 2016 with one of St Aidan’s pupils, Hope Colley.
At just 7 years of age, Hope was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. She underwent extensive aggressive treatment and by Christmas 2016, the family thought she was in remission.
Ali, Hope’s mum, bought her Pippa believing that she would help Hope to recuperate. Hope relapsed and Pippa instead became Hope’s therapy dog, she was by Hope’s side throughout the last 11 months of her life. Even sitting in her arms as she died.
Towards the end of Hope’s life, knowing what an impact Pippa had made, Hope asked her mum to train Pippa as a therapy dog so that she could help other children.
Ali has since trained Pippa to become a volunteer therapy dog for Therapy Dogs Nationwide. It was at this point that Pippa returned to St Aidan’s, to earn her stripes.
She visited at least once a week, helping Hope’s classmates through the grieving process and many other children besides. Pippa became important to St Aidan’s because of her links to Hope and the work she did to relieve suffering after Hope died, she represents hope for the future for the school.
Ali has since trained extensively as a dog handler, set up a therapy dog service in another school and become a licensed Thrive Practitioner. She’s now brought all her experience together and using her own dogs has set up a professional therapeutic service focusing on social, emotional and mental wellbeing which she hopes will bring both hope and healing to the children and schools who access it.
For St Aidan’s to have this little dog and her handler back in the school, working therapeutically with children reminds them continually that darkness cannot last long where there is light. During this difficult time, the school is thankful to have bringers of light and hope in the form of Pippa and Ali.
Ali said: “St Aidan’s meant the world to Hope. She loved her teachers and her friends passionately. The school and in particular, Melanie Ravenscroft and Rachel Fisher, helped our family through the hardest of times. It is only fitting that upon setting up this service, they are the first to receive its care. Hope would have been so proud and thankful to know that Pippa is bringing joy to so many children now.”