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Helping hound: Therapet dog Willow goes to school every week

This Old English Sheepdog has made some very important young friends.

For the young children of Ardnahoe Nursery School in Glasgow, Wednesday is Willow Day.

That's the day their biggest and fluffiest class member, a gentle Old English sheepdog, comes to join them.

At around half a meter high and weighing in anywhere between 60 to 100Ibs, Willow is their very own Big Friendly Giant.

A trained therapet with the Canine Concern Scotland Trust, she is exceptionally calm around small children and patiently will allow cuddles, head pats and hair sessions.

They play together, read together and the children also learn how to respect and care for four legged friends.

Nursery Head Teacher, Janet Moffat, is delighted.

"They're quite overwhelmed initially when Willow walks in but Willow is such a placid dog that when she sits down in the playroom the children are able to get quite close to a large dog," she says.

"The thing with dogs is they're non-judgemental.

"We have children happy to take Willow for a walk, read a book.

"It lets them interact with another being."

Willow at work.
Willow at work. STV

Willow is now just a regular part of the nursery's Wednesday afternoons now. She comes in with Canine Concern area rep James Macdonald and sits down on the couch with him allowing the children to wander over to say hello whenever they wish.

"It's about socialisation. Children come up of their own free will if they want to and it gives them perhaps their first experience with a dog," says James.

"When we come through the door now they say her name. Whether its the elderly or teenagers, they seldom remember my name but they always remember Willow."

The Canine Concern Scotland Trust is celebrating its 30th birthday this year - it was initially formed to help dogs and their owners and to improve their position in present-day society.

Willow has made some firm friends.
Willow has made some firm friends. STV

The Trust established and manage a "therapet" service and promote research into the therapeutic value of dogs.

"Willow's a lovely safe dog and that gives the children a positive experience," says James. "She doesn't jump up or lick them, which children and even adults can be wary of."

For the children, it is an educational experience. They learn boundaries, how to be safe around dogs and they make a rather large furry friend.

"Yes, it benefits the children," adds head teacher Janet. "She's such a beautiful, calm dog and she helps the children learn to be careful around other living things."

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