September is Therapy Dog Awareness Month. Over 20,000 Australians enjoy a visit from a therapy dog each week.
St Vincent’s has a volunteer Pet Therapy program that started 15 years ago and has proven to be a great way of lifting the spirits of patients. It also helps to alleviate anxiety, depression, social isolation and communication difficulties.
Therapy Dogs are trained to provide affection, companionship and comfort to patients and residents receiving palliative care, residential care, rehab and aged care services.
Volunteer, Laine has a special connection with St Vincent’s. She suffered a stroke at the age of 36 (eight years ago) and was paralysed down her left side. Laine spent three months in Rehabilitation at St Vincent’s Hospital.
Laine said, “I visit the St Vincent’s Rehabilitation Ward with Ziggy once a week. Coming in on a regular basis is great as it helps to build a bond with the patients. I listen when they’ve had a hard week. ”
Many patients look forward to Pet Therapy Dog visits as they have either left their pets at home or have no one else to visit them.
“I can often spend up to 20 minutes with one patient. They tend to open up to me because I’m Ziggy’s mum,” Said Laine.
Kaye confirmed this by pointing out that a patient was visited by a volunteer, only to be told, ‘It is lovely you’ve come to visit but I’d rather see a Pet Therapy Dog.’”
Kaye became a Pet Therapy volunteer when she lost her 17 year old poodle. She said, “I was extremely sad and so Volunteer Service Manager, Jody Clover, who has three dogs of her own suggested I take up a Pet Therapy role.
Jody Clover said, “Pets are put through an assessment before being placed on to a ward. Patients and staff love the interaction with the dogs.”
“We’d welcome more Pet Therapy volunteers as it is such a shame that we can’t visit all of the patients.”