Indro’s favourite staff member has silky, golden curls and exudes an air of calm.
He can be found nosing around the garden, wandering under S Block classroom desks and accepting pats and hugs from students and staff.
One-year-old Ludo Odger has become an indispensable member of Indooroopilly State High School’s Integrated Student Support (ISS) team since starting his official job as therapy dog in Semester 1.
His other role is beloved family pet of Sandra Odger, the Head of Department for ISS, which works with students who have disabilities or learning difficulties.
“I love the difference he makes. Just with my own kids, I love seeing that they give him a big hug when they’re upset and that seems to make the world okay,” she says.
Long before Ludo joined the Odger family, Ms Odger was putting together a proposal to convince Indro’s management team of the benefits of a therapy dog. She visited Kenmore South State School, Springfield Central State High and Weary Dunlop Retirement Village to see the positive impact of therapy dogs on those communities.
As her 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter lavished love on their Spoodle (Cocker Spaniel/Poodle) puppy, Ms Odger was noticing his placid nature.
“It was never that our therapy dog would definitely be Ludo,” she says.
“It was that if he was the right temperament and fitted the school, then he would be the one. We went through a trainer to verify that he did have the nice temperament.”
Ludo has been an instant hit in the school community, offering a comforting and cuddly shoulder to lean on.
“He comes in to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, and just hangs, basically,” Ms Odger says.
“From time to time, students will come down distressed, call him and go into one of our withdrawal rooms – the sensory room or chill-out room – and just sit there and calm themselves with him.
“We use him with some of the higher needs students to help them communicate.
“We’ve seen through evidence that when a student gets upset it can take them a long time to talk to you again, and they just shut down. When a student is overloaded sensory wise, bringing Ludo in to pat brings them out of that slump, so to speak, a lot more quickly.”
Ludo has the run of S Block, excluding the kitchen for hygiene reasons. Safety plans are in place for people who are afraid or for cultural reasons don’t want to have any interactions with him.
One of his favourite spots is the bench seat under the window of Ms Odger’s office, where he sits to attention watching students playing sport on the oval.
The unexpected benefit of Ludo’s presence is an increase in social visits to S Block.
“We’re getting more and more teachers dropping in just to say hello to the puppy. It’s like he brings the school community together,” Ms Odger says.
“We’ve had a number of parents say they have no trouble getting their student to school on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“One parent told us just seeing him in the yard makes a big difference to her child’s day.
“The most surprising thing to me has been time. I thought he would have to be with people for a long time before there would be any effect. But it seems to be a huge positive effect he’s having just wandering into the classroom and walking between their legs. Teachers are reporting that students are more engaged. When he walks in they’ll have that break and then maintain focus.
“Ludo doesn’t have an effect on all of the students, but with the ones he does, it’s huge.”
ABOUT SANDRA ODGER
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT – INTEGRATED STUDENT SUPPORT
Ms Odger had spent the previous decade working in gifted education before moving across the road from St Peters Lutheran College in 2016 to head Indro’s ISS Department.
The former primary school teacher did a Masters in Gifted Education and had worked in Melbourne, Mackay and Perth before settling in Brisbane.
She says while students have diverse learning needs, the same principles apply at all levels: “It all comes down to individual strengths and challenges.”
Working in Integrated Student Support at Indro has brought a sense of belonging.
“I don’t know how I really ended up here but it has been something that just naturally fits. I think it’s this school as well – I love this school. I feel like I’ve found my people.”
ABOUT LUDO @ WORK
The Ludo @ Work video featured on this page is the work of Film and Television students from Indooroopilly State High School.
Director/camera operator: Isabelle Irons
Producer: Trevor Norman (English, Film, Television and New Media Teacher)
Editor: Liam Daniel
Second editor/subtitles: Ted Bliss
Sound: James Park