THIS is no shaggy dog story.
Pooka the basset hound has been proving a hit with young people in need of extra support .
The placid pooch is working with a youth-led mental health and emotional wellbeing project which supports those experiencing anxiety.
The Right Here project, based in Brighton and Hove, has launched an innovative outdoor counselling programme featuring Pooka.
Holding sessions outside allows people to get out and about with Pooka in tow and speak to counsellors and advisors about any issues they have.
Four-year-old Pooka’s presence helps to break the ice and responding to her can help young people explore their feelings and emotions.
Project manager Jessica Cotton is also Pooka’s owner and said those taking part in the "walk and talk" scheme have reported a decrease in their anxiety levels.
She said: “Companion animals such as dogs can engage us on an empathic level and heighten our awareness of how we relate to those around us.
“Dogs live in the present moment and offer us non-judgemental, honest feedback in a way that humans often don’t.
“They teach us to be more aware of the connections between our mind, body and emotions, which can be really helpful when learning to manage mental health issues like anxiety.
“Pooka the dog has given these young people an opportunity to relate with themselves and others in a different way.
“She is a lovely, calming and good natured dog and really seems to respond to the emotions the young people show.
“She is proving a success and enjoys the attention as well.”
Right Here is managed by YMCA Downslink and works with young people between 13 and 25 to support their mental health and emotional wellbeing, and ensure their voices are heard in the city.
It is currently exploring other therapy projects involving animals that is may be able to use in the future.
The next walk and talk, open to people aged between 18 and 25 and is free to join, is planned for July 7 and places are filling up fast.