Pupils at Maria Regina College’s Mosta Primary A recently learned about the role of service dogs when Bliss, a two-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, was welcomed to their school.

Bliss was born in Malta but her parents were from Poland. Her trainer, Robert Spiteri, a dog behaviourist who is also the parent of a pupil at the school, explained that Bliss was training to be a service dog for a young girl with Down’s Syndrome, and it is hoped she will be fully qualify next month.

The pupils were delighted to watch Bliss obey and interact with her trainer. Bliss lived up to her name – the dog’s friendly and loving nature won over the pupils’ hearts. She visited one class after another and relished the pupils’ attention and signs of affection.

Spiteri explained the role of a service dog in society and the intense, long training required for a dog to qualify. Service dogs can be the eyes and ears of people with visual or hearing impairments. They can carry out tasks for people with mobility problems.

Other service dogs are trained to alert their owners about certain medical conditions such as allergic reactions or fluctuations in blood glucose level.

A service dog is literally at the service of its owner, according to the latter’s needs, and its role is to make a positive difference in the owner’s life. The bond formed between a service dog and its owner is built on mutual trust and love.

The activity was organised a part of Animal Awareness Week.

Dr Angele Pulis is head of Maria Regina College’s Mosta Primary A.