So it is an old adage that you should never work with children or animals.

But I disagree as I love BOTH children and animals and can’t imagine being in an environment without either as part of my working day.

It has long been known and recognised the therapeutic effect animals have on adults and children with special needs and learning difficulties. There have been many studies that caring for a pet can help reduce depression, anxiety and stress.

Anyone who knows me will have heard me raving about Penniwells Horse Riding for the Disabled.


This is a fabulous stables in Hertfordshire which enables children and young adults with disabilities to care for and ride a horse. The calming effect I have seen on children who have autism and developmental delay is amazing. Children do not seem perturbed that the animal is huge and overbearing – all they feel is the innate gentleness of the beast. I organise for a group of children to visit this centre every week and am pleased to report that the benefits they derive from their experience are outstanding.

Another fantastic place I visited this week was Sweet Tree Farm.


Tucked away behind a busy road and popular pub in Mill Hill is this incredible open space. Only set up 2 years ago through a collaboration with Barry Sweetbaum and Jude Allen, this farm’s mission statement is:

…… make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable people who are experiencing social or educational exclusion, by providing meaningful experiences in a natural environment, and to help them grow to become confident, well balanced individuals who are socially included.

Massive fields filled with chickens, ducks, rabbits, donkeys, sheep. An outdoor classroom, allotments, fire pit, fairy glen, nature art, obstacle course, indoor space ready for craft activities and heated by a natural wood burner. And much, much more! The ethos of the staff is to promote independence and use the animals to promote self-help skills. Absolutely fabulous!

One of the groups I follow on Facebook is Appaws For Autism who also have a great website 


A really proactive group of parents who realise the benefits of the therapeutic value of training dogs to support families with an autistic child.


An autism specific assistance dog can increase social interaction, confidence and safety. They can comfort and protect in times of great anxiety or stress and keep a person safe in times of grave danger by alerting, carrying out deep pressure techniques and distraction. Most of all your child/adult will experience and gain unconditional love and a best friend for life. A guardian angel in the guise of a dog.

Isn’t that amazing!? Makes you want to weep that an animal can bring so much joy, comfort and help to a family.

So this week marks the Chinese Year of The (cheeky) Monkey
People born in the Year of the Monkey are characterised as lively, quick-witted, curious, innovative and mischievous.
What animal zodiac sign are you? Below are the years of birth…
  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

So these are your characteristics:

  • Rat: Intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, artistic, sociable.
  • Ox: Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, steady, determined.
  • Tiger: Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, leadership, confidence, charismatic.
  • Rabbit: Trustworthy, empathic, modest, diplomatic, sincere, sociable, caretakers.
  • Dragon: Lucky, flexible, eccentric, imaginative, artistic, spiritual, charismatic.
  • Snake: Philosophical, organized, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive.
  • Horse: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong.
  • Sheep: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm.
  • Monkey: Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, smart.
  • Rooster: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident.
  • Dog: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart.
  • Pig: Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable.
I think it’s a bit of fun but I’m not sure if I believe in zodiacs and horoscopes BUT I do believe in the almost magical therapeutic effect animals have on our special children.



Never say never work with children and animals. As indeed, children AND animals is a wondrous combination that can bring the most incredible positive effects on behaviour. Give it a try. Woof! images








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