Therapy dog Pippa welcomes back youngsters at St Helens school

As pupils at St Aidan's CE Primary School in St Helens returned to school on Monday following the latest closures due to Covid-19, they were welcomed by a very fluffy face.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 3:10 pm
Therapy dog Pippa

Therapy dog Pippa and her handler Ali were waiting at the school gates to welcome children back into the classroom, many of whom were scared to return.

But the children’s faces were beaming with delight as soon as they saw Pippa waiting for them.

Pippa and Ali are part of a therapeutic service called ‘Hope’s Therapy Dogs.’ Their story started back in 2016 when Ali’s daughter and St Aidan’s pupil, Hope Colley was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour at just seven-years-old.

Ali at St Aidans

Hope’s parents brought Pippa into her life to help her recuperate after extensive aggressive treatment - but after being in remission, Hope relapsed and Pippa became her therapy dog. She was by her side throughout the last 11 months of her life.

Towards the end of Hope’s life, knowing what an impact Pippa had made in her own life, Hope asked her mum to train Pippa as a therapy dog so that she could help other children.

Ali said: “St Aidan’s School 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.

Pippa and Ali were waiting at the school gates to welcome children back into the classroom

“It is only fitting that on setting up this service, they are the first to receive it’s care.

“Hope would have been so proud and thankful to know that Pippa is bringing joy to so many children now.”

Pippa and Ali are a new enterprise for the St Helens region and they represent hope for any school who might choose to access their service.

Ali trained Pippa to become a volunteer therapy dog for the organisation, Therapy Dogs Nationwide.

It was at this point when 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.

Pippa became important to St Aidan’s because of her links to Hope and the work she did to relieve suffering after she died - she represents hope for the future and for the school. It’s like a little bit of Hope is still with them.

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 by using her own dogs, she has set up a professional therapeutic service focusing on social, emotional and mental wellbeing.

Ali is aiming to 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 their children reminds them continually that darkness cannot last long where there is light.

In this time of darkness throughout the nation and in the community, they are thankful to have light and hope in the form of Pippa and Ali.