WooftasticBooks Interviews Chris Kent

WooftasticBooks are pleased to present an interview with Chris Kent, author, winner of the Daily Mirror Animal Hero Award 2021 and the founder of the K9 Project.

What inspired you to write ‘Hounds Who Heal’, ‘You Me an ADHD ‘, and ‘You Me an Anxiety’? 

I have always loved to read and write and had a dream of becoming a journalist as a teenager but took a different direction. After I had been running the K9 Project for a few years there were so many amazing stories, of both people and dogs that I really wanted to share them, with people’s permission. So a book started to take shape, really a series of interlinked stories, some of the people we had worked with wrote their own chapters, which was empowering for them. I had a book coach who said I needed to put something in about me, to hold it all together (which was the hardest part!) I was fortunate enough to get a publishing contract, and so ‘Hounds Who Heal’ was unleashed into the world. 

One of my rescue dogs- Izzy, inspired me to write ‘You me an ADHD’ although she is credited with writing it! I did help a bit! Izzy was very much a Dog with ADHD behaviours and watching the children with ADHD relate to her and appreciate their strengths was such a fabulous learning experience I did not want to lose all of that and felt that a book would hopefully capture some of that so that a wider group of children could benefit from her approach to life.

‘You me and anxiety” seemed an almost logical follow up after the past few years and the rise in anxiety. Izzy had some help from the other dogs with this one so they have all chipped in.  

Give us a brief description of your books?

Hounds who heal- the story of the dogs and the people who have made the K9 Project the unique project that is is, and continues to be 

‘You me and ADHD’ an activity book for children focussing on the positives and strengths of ADHD, alongside management tips and fun activities 

‘You me an Anxiety’ for slightly older children/ teens and their families 

Both of these are really supposed to open the door to conversations and provide a different, quirky way of discussing difficult subjects 

The power of the human-canine bond- turning your passion into a business. A business coaching book co-written with amazing colleague Marie Yates designed to help people who want to do something amazing with their dogs, but may not know where to start. 

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your books? 

Finishing them . !! 😊 

What’s next for you, writing-wise?

A rest !! seriously I want to collate the learning and experiences on my ‘Reducing Anxiety Around Dogs’ programmes – and write them up In a way that will help parents so they can help their children’s fears around dogs – without having the need for a professional. 

I also have an idea to write about how the family dog can help with anxiety, in an overt way, and how parents can harness storytelling/metaphor to help their children. We know dogs can help us reduce anxiety and keep us sane, but I also work in families where the dogs can increase stress due to behaviours, I think this is an interesting concept for the next book if there is one! 

Where can readers go to find out more information about you and your books?

Website www.thek9project.co.uk 

Tell us about Izzy and something unique or amusing about her?

Izzy was found by Animal Helpline Rescue in the pound when her 7 days were up, and they took her out of there and saved her life. She is bright, clever, hyperactive and determined. She is up for just about anything and we have been swimming in rivers together, been stand up paddleboarding, she excels at parkour and is fearless with her jumping, and loves search and rescue work. She is an older dog now -something I have to remind her about, and is losing some sight and hearing. She does less direct work on the project now as befits a 14-year-old. Last year she won a PDSA Commendation Award for the support she has given to young people since coming to live with us.    

Tell us more about the k9 project?

I have a social work background always worked with children and families, in many roles. Ran my own training consultancy and set up the project in 2008 as I wanted to really explore the ways that rescue dogs would help children and young people who were struggling to live their best lives, for whatever reason. We have worked across youth justice, social care, youth work and education. Currently, work mostly with SEND (special educational needs/disabilities) so many young people on autistic spectrum/adhd or with mental health difficulties. Have also won many awards for adult education/youth work. Last December I won a Daily Mirror Animal Hero Award at their inaugural People Pet Awards which was a shock, and a bit overwhelming!!  

The dogs open the door with young people, and then hopefully I can step through and do my stuff!   

We undertake really practical things – such as leaving the house( some of my young people do not even manage that) walking the dogs gives them confidence, the fact they are previously homeless dogs who haven’t had the best start gives the young people hope – they can often see elements of themselves in the dogs and find something to relate to. I call it coaching more than therapy,  

The dogs are the centre of things- we truly work in partnership- everything starts with the dogs and radiates out from the lessons they teach us. We have 5 rescue dogs- 1 x Peterboro, 2x Romania, 2 x Cyprus – not all of them work on the project as they have to like it and gain from it themselves.