Valentina Horvat Kokalj & Fjord

My favourite colours- despite not entirely- are black and white. In fact, I became keen on this colour combination when I became the proud caretaker of now almost 6-year-old, real lady dog Freya, a Border colli look-alike cross-breed and now two-and-a-half years old Border colli Fjord. They are both full of energy, playful, thoughtful, caring and intelligent to the point where they remember any mischief and which might sometimes be annoying. They are equally important members of our family and we do almost everything together.


Otherwise I love colours and my world is quite colourful, but mostly it all revolves around the animals, mostly dogs. As a canine instructor I prepare dogs and their human pack for co-habitation and I help to solve human-dog disagreements. Aside from my executive assignments in the Institute, I also test the suitability of the dogs for work, I run canine workshops and educational programmes and other professional work in the field of cynology. I’m furthering my education to become a veterinary technician and take part in seminars related to dog assisted intervention. Freya is unfortunately unsuitable for dog assisted therapy as she’s a very distrustful and shy dog, but she’s proven as a very loyal ‘family doc’ to everyone in the family.


In my free time I like to go running and Freya and Fjord are my usual accomplices. They can be relentless at home in their demand for play and to keep their hyperactive brain engaged we train obedience exercises and learn various tricks where the whole family is involved.


It is true that volunteer work is a free choice and not a necessity. But it is also true that the volunteers, who engage in such activities as provided by our Institute, must invest a lot of effort, time and knowledge before and after they start working. Despite experiencing a lot of beautiful moments, this work can be physically, mentally and emotionally very demanding for the handlers and their dogs. Therefore my aim is to enable a good atmosphere in the Institute for all of them and to provide good working fitness.


Dog assisted interventions have been present for quite a few years now but I think it’s still very much in its infancy. Therapy pairs are becoming increasingly recognizable, but still a majority of people would fit them into one sentence: ‘ They are the ones we can pet and they make people happy.’ This is essentially true, but not many people know that there’s theory and a vast amount of professional knowledge behind it. Therefore my goal is to raise the activities of our Institute in Slovenia to a higher level, to the one it deserves. There are so many people who need our help and assistance, but I will keep insisting that professionalism and quality come before quantity. Studies have shown great results but in order to achieve even greater ones, we need to optimize cooperation between professional workers in the institutions and our volunteers.


I think of myself as an optimistic realist and I’m sure we can make it!


Every PET (5) is welcome, as you help us work better