School dog Varjo brings joy and does important work


Wildfay’s Public House, a.k.a. Varjo, has been working as a school dog for a year, visiting Mikkola School about every other week. The dog facilitates communication with adults, motivates the pupils and, at best, calms the class.

Varjo istuu opettajan työtuolissa ja pitää kynää suussaan.

Varjo is a real professional, don't you think. Photo: Kreeta Holopainen

Varjo gave us an interview: 

Who are you? 

“I’m a 3-year-old dual-purpose Labrador. My official name is Wildfay’s Public House, but my friends call me Varjo, which means ‘shadow’.”  

What is your typical working day like? 

“In the morning, Mum takes me to work. The primary school kids usually start petting me right after I get out of the car. My working days are planned so that I have something to do during some of the lessons and I get to rest during other lessons. For example, it’s usually my job to choose different tasks for the pupils. I’m currently learning how to spin the dice, and this skill can also be used during lessons. Sometimes the pupils do tasks with me or, when they are finished with their work, they can come and scratch me. During recess, I rest or take a pee, or sometimes the pupils who are not in my classes that day come and scratch me. I mainly work with secondary school pupils, but sometimes primary school pupils also come and meet me.” 

How do pupils respond to you? 

“Most of the pupils like me a lot, but some are a bit nervous at times. When that happens, I have to stay put more and can’t roam freely around the class. If someone’s really scared, I don’t go to their class. A few of Mum’s pupils are allergic, but they said that they can take allergy medicine if I’m there. I’ve been told that I facilitate communication with adults, because pupils dare to approach Mum more easily and then the conversation often drifts to the pupils’ own pets. Mum has told me that pupils often find it easier to come and talk again later, even when I’m not with her. I often also calm the class.” 

What is the most important characteristic of a school dog? 

“The most important characteristic is that the school dog is sociable and likes people. Mum says that I’m also easy to train and really obedient, so she doesn’t need to pay much attention to me during the lessons and can focus on the pupils instead. Secondary school is sometimes quite noisy and there are surprising situations, so it’s good that I’m quite bold and don’t get too startled by anything.”  

What is the best thing about your job? 

“The best thing about my job is getting a lot of attention and petting, and doing nice tricks with Mum and the pupils!” 

Who is your human and what kind of person is she? Where did she get the idea for you to become a school dog? 

“Mum teaches biology, geography and health education at Mikkola School. She’s had dogs for a really long time and she thought already during her studies that she’d like to use dogs in teaching. Since I’m someone who loves everyone, Mum started to find out more about it. I first took an aptitude test and easily passed it!”

What do you do after your working day? 

“After work, I go for long walks with Mum, Dad and my furry brother. Mum and I also do a lot of different things together. My favourites are the things I was originally bred for: retrieving and searching for things!”  

Kreeta Holopainen & Tua Tähkäpää

This article was published in Residents’ magazine 2/2023. Read the other articles on the Residents’ magazine's homepage!