Meet Frank. He’s not just a pug – he’s a therapy pug and the star of his own class.
Little Frank takes part in relaxation sessions at his local high school helping youngsters cope with stress and anxiety.
His popular Chill Skill classes take place at Thurso High School – and it’s even noted in the school’s diary as “Frank’s Class”.
Frank’s beloved owner Donna Booth describes her cute therapy dog as a “natural” in the role as he seeks out anxious youngsters and helps to calm them down.
“He is the most laid back dog you will ever meet,” said Donna, of Wick.
“He is so relaxed and does a lot of good work with people with anxiety. For such a little dog he has a very big personality.
“He’s really taken with anxious people, if somebody is worried, shy or nervous, Frank will always go and sit with them.
“He’s not pushy, he just sits beside them and then gradually sneaks up to sit on their knee.
“I can’t take any credit for him, he’s just a natural. He’s just really tuned in to whoever needs him.”
Frank passed his therapy dog tests with flying colours
Donna runs her own award-winning wellbeing business Vitality, which launched in 2008. She runs yoga and mindfulness classes as well as residential retreats at the Forse of Nature building, Caithness.
A family pet, Frank proved to be popular with guests booked on to Donna’s retreats.
But the pooch didn’t begin his role as a therapy dog until Donna realised how good he was with children.
Donna said: “I do a fair bit of work with children and teenagers and sometimes they would ask if Frank could stay for their session.
“He would sit on their knee and it was always so much easier to work with anxious children when Frank was there.”
Donna contacted the organisation Pets As Therapy who informed her that he would need to pass several tests before he could be registered as a therapy pup.
Frank passed with flying colours.
I’m not actually sure he knows he’s a dog, he just really loves people.
Since becoming a therapy dog Frank has also been visiting primary schools in Thrumster and Keiss helping to teach children new skills.
There’s Relaxed Kids sessions for primary school children and Chill Skill classes for teenagers.
He’s also been visiting pensioners at Riverside Care Home in Wick, turning up in flamboyant dog costumes such as a flower and a pumpkin.
Donna said: “At the high school he had his own chill skill class and it was even in the diary as Frank’s Class.
“The whole school would come out to see him coming in, it was lovely.
“He is super chilled and likes to potter about the place.”
She added: “He particularly loves pensioners because they’re always trying to feed him biscuits.
“I’m not actually sure he knows he’s a dog, he just really loves people.”
Donna has had to come up with new ways of running her business over the past year due to the pandemic.
She now runs online yoga sessions with Frank and has found she’s reached a wider audience on the internet.
But she’s looking forward to going back to running face-t0-face retreats with her little nine-year-old pug in Forse when coronavirus restrictions ease.
‘I’m just really his entourage’
She said: “Frank is very much the yoga pug. He comes to the retreats and classes and sits down with my clients.
“He loves it there, they spoil him and make special dog bone-shaped biscuits when he’s coming. He has the whole run of the place – I’m really just his entourage!”
Struggling to keep calm? Here’s some tips from Donna and Frank
Develop a good morning and evening routine
A good routine can help us lower stress levels. Donna recommends journaling your thoughts in the morning to help clear your mind.
Find an exercise that’s right for you that you can get absorbed in such as walking, yoga or even wild swimming.
You can use your breath to trick your mind into relaxing. Breathe in for seven counts and out for a count of 11 and this will send a message to your body that it’s OK to relax.
Even if you’re sitting on your doorstep, if you can’t get out any further, get outdoors and just pause. Think about five things you can smell, three things you can touch and one thing you can taste to connect yourself to your body instead of focusing on your mind. The anxiety will pass.
More tips can can be found at https://www.vitality-retreat.com/news-views-and-interviews/