“We experience something every week that touches our hearts and encourages and inspires us.”

 Nikki at work

Name: Haylee Tumanik and Nikky

Type of dog: Staffy X Cattle

Location: New South Wales

Visits: Aged care

Volunteering: 1 year

Why: Doing this volunteer work gives me great pleasure as I can be involved in and give back to the community I belong to. Also, I am given the chance to bring joy to people’s lives by sharing my pet’s life with others.

Enjoys most: By far the most enjoyable aspect of my visits is putting a smile on the resident’s faces. I love setting myself a challenge every week to try and put a smile on everyone’s face with the help of Nikky. Its also fantastic hearing the stories the residents share of their past experiences with their pets and what they loved about the dog’s they owned.

Dog enjoys: My dog Nikky would tell you the greatest thing about visits is that she receives a yummy piece of cake every time she goes; however, I can see that every week Nikky loves how the residents adore her presence. Nikky also becomes so excited whilst at the facility that she has begun to whimper excitedly every time we visit a room because she enthusiastically anticipates the friendly resident she’ll meet next.

Nikki on bed

Reaction: Every corner we come around at the facility the staff greet us with the same joyful phrase: “oh look its Nikky!” Nikky responds to this by looking up at the staff with her big brown eyes, tail wagging, hoping for a pat. It’s very fulfilling seeing the visitors of residents and having them ask if Nikky visits often, then, seeing them come back the week after to once again visit their relative and see the joy Nikky brings them.

The most common reaction Nikky and I get from residents is a big bright smile; they then proceed to tell me of the dogs they previously owned and how having a pet in their life meant so much to them. Many of the residents love getting a slobbery kiss from Nikky and I love watching them burst out in laughter as she does this, more often than not residents enthusiastically give Nikky a big bear hug who of course loves it when they do this. 

Nikki with Hayley & patient

Experiences: Nikky and I haven’t yet experienced one single moment that has amazed us, instead, we experience something every week that touches our hearts and encourages and inspires us to return to the facility with more enthusiasm than the week before.

Nikky and I enter the facility with smiles on our faces greeting the staff and saying hello to the visitors. However, we often encounter residents in the dementia unit who are unsure of where they are or cannot remember who is in their family. These residents unfortunately always have tears in their eyes and haven’t much happiness in their hearts. I then walk through the unit with Nikky; she pants whilst looking excitedly around the lunch room at the now familiar faces and tries to pull me toward the resident she knows will give her the biggest hug. The resident looks at Nikky, and in that moment I feel the greatest sense of joy in volunteering as the resident will smile and stretch out their hand to pat Nikky on the head. The tears gradually disappear and the reason they were sad slowly leaves their mind, the resident has a little conversation with Nikky telling her how beautiful she is as she looks up at them acknowledging their compliments. The residents then proceed to explain to me how wonderful they think dogs are; all the while their smile gets bigger and bigger.

I continue to see every week that Nikky recognizes the sadness in some of the residents and she knows that when around them she must be calmer and more approachable. I myself find great joy in cheering somebody up, every week I feel fulfilled to have visited the facility with my dog and further appreciative of the chance I am given to brighten somebody’s life who values the love, warmth and happiness a dog can offer.

Haylee &  Nikky


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