Nucky the therapy dog offers support to young people at Cumnock Academy

Cumnock Academy has welcomed a new addition to their teaching and support team, Nucky the therapy dog.

Named after Steve Buscemi’s character Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire; he is a loveable little Malshi (Maltese Shih Tzu) with a big heart.

Nucky’s owner, chemistry teacher Iona Steven brought him into school to help pupils during their exams but he has had such a positive influence Nucky is now visiting a range of classes.

Iona Steven said: “When you walk through the corridors pupils and teachers stop to say hello to Nucky and give him a pat, he brings a bit of happiness everywhere he goes. Before each exam, Nucky has been visiting the young people waiting to enter the exam hall. He loves all the attention and the young people feel much calmer and more focused after his visit.

“His influence has been so positive that we have decided to take him into classes. The young people are so much calmer when he is there. He helped one first year boy, within our Supported Learning Centre, through a particularly difficult day, sitting by his side and giving him kisses when he needed them. It makes me proud that Nucky is helping so many of our young people.”

Head teacher Peter Gilchrist has welcomed Nucky’s calming and supportive presence. He said: “Therapy pets are used widely in a number of settings to provide calm, comfort and love to people during difficult times. When we considered bringing Nucky into school our first thought was for our young people sitting exams. Every parent knows what a stressful time this is for young people so the plan was for Nucky to come into school and provide some quiet reassurance to our young people but his role has since developed.

“Dogs can provide affection, comfort and support to people who are anxious but evidence also shows that dogs can provide positive support to young people with additional support needs. Nucky has been visiting nurture classes within the Support Learning Centre and he adapts his behaviour to support the needs of our young people. Sometimes he is cheeky and fun and sometimes he just provides cuddles and calm.

“Nucky has done such a good job that over the summer we are going to recruit a full time therapy dog for Cumnock Academy. The wellbeing of our young people is paramount. Good mental health goes hand in hand with achievement and we are committed to ensuring that we nurture our young people to reach their full potential.”