School Holiday Program

The City of Burnside runs a diverse school holiday program with activities for all ages ranging from sport, art, craft, music and outdoor play. Most sessions are booked out in advance and competition for places is fierce. One of the more unusual sessions this school holidays was a talk from author Gina Dawson who has written a series of children’s books about assistance dogs. NEXT DOOR’S DOG HAS A JOB came about after Gina had some bad experiences while out and about with her assistance dog Kiera. “I have had children approach and jump on the dog and some parents don’t seem to understand how upsetting that is,” Gina says. “It is really important that children and their parents are educated about assistance dogs.”

The success of Gina’s first book led to two more – NEXT DOOR’S DOG GOES TO SCHOOL and NEXT DOOR’S DOG IS A THERAPY DOG. There is a fourth book in progress - NEXT DOOR’S DOG IS A VETERAN’S DOG. Gina says children are generally familiar with Labradors as guide dogs but don’t always understand that assistance dogs can come in all sizes and colours. Kiera is a 5-year-old black Kelpie and helps Gina cope with her hearing loss. “We are inseparable,” says Gina. “When she is off duty at home she has the run of the house and the yard, but is most likely to be found asleep under my desk or watching me.” Gina and Kiera undertook 18 months training through mindDog, a NSW based not-for-profit organisation that helps people procure, train and accredit assistance dogs. “Kiera was one of the youngest dogs to pass the course,” Gina says. “She is very intelligent.”

Emily Holmes of Klemzig brought her two daughters, Cadence and Lillian, to Gina’s session and said they learnt a lot. “We had watched a documentary on working dogs so this session was perfect. It is good for the girls to understand how to behave around an assistance dog.”

Gina’s fourth book is due out before ANZAC Day.

Pic: Author Gina Dawson and dog Kiera with Lillian, 8 and Cadence, 9

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