Delta dogs reduce stress

BELLA and Fleur are Delta Therapy Dogs and are doing their bit for Lifeline’s ‘Stress Down Day’.

Visiting patients in aged care facilities in Cessnock, Leanne Badior’s Golden Retrievers help residents keep their stress levels down.

Taking lead from the matriarch of the family, now retired Delta Dog and grandmother Cassie, Bella and Fleur (mum and daughter) are taken to two facilities once a fortnight for a full day of visitations.

Hearing on the radio about Delta Therapy Dogs Australia, Leanne decided that it was something she could do with some spare time she had.

A breeder of Golden Retrievers for 10 years, Leanne knew that the temperament of her animals would be ideal for the service the organisation provides.

Having to deal with personal illness herself, Leanne understood just how important a companion animal can be to an individuals’ wellbeing.

“You don’t have to camouflage how you feel and they aren’t judgmental or care if all you want to do is sit and have a cry,” Leanne explained.

Now a volunteer with the Delta Dogs for three years, Leanne and her animals have become very comfortable in their routine and many relationships have been developed.

“So many people just don’t get visitors and it is amazing to see their faces when we arrive,” she said.

“There are some who will not do anything for the rest of the week and when we arrive, they are dressed and sitting up waiting for their chat and pat.

“I have met some amazing people and hear all sorts of stories, it is so rewarding.”

There are some hard parts too as Leanne does develop an emotional connection with the people she sees and at times it can be difficult if they become unwell or pass away.

The difference the dogs can make to individuals lives makes it very worthwhile for her though.

“One lady we visit doesn’t get up and walk around unless she has Bella to walk with,” Leanne explained.

“The dogs are also very good with dementia patients as the connection with an animal can bring back memories of a dog they used to have.

“There are some patients who do not connect with anyone else in the facility, and while originally they may be a bit closed off to us as well, we end up developing lovely friendships.”

For some patients the connections with the animals are ways of keeping their minds active and in touch with the outside world.

Some of the people Leanne visits are also of a similar age to her and she can see just how much they get out of the dogs visits.

“There are some younger patients who may have Cerebral Palsy or a stroke and just can’t be cared for at home, but their minds are still completely functioning and they need that stimulation to help keep their wellbeing up,” Leanne said.

According to Leanne, taking the dogs into the facilities gives some people a point of interest that they can work on in the lead up to the visit.

“Some are dedicated watches of animal shows just so they can have a common topic that we can chat about and that is something they really look forward to,” Leanne explained.

“They always know when we are coming and are ready for our visit.

“We put Easter bunny ears and Christmas hats on them for seasonal celebrations and are also invited to birthdays and the annual Christmas luncheons.”

For Leanne and her dogs the time she spends with the people in the facilities is busy and there are times where she may feel like she just cannot get there, but knowing just how much it means to the patients keeps her going and she encourages any one who has some spare time to get involved.

Presently there are not any facilities in Singleton using the Delta Dogs service. The national non-profit organisation puts volunteers and their animals through an induction program that assesses temperament and suitability for the program.

Animals are clearly identifiable in their bandanas when visiting facilities and undertake a medical check regularly to ensure the health of the animal is suitable for visiting health service facilities.

Facilities pay and annual fee to have the volunteers visit and if anyone is interested in volunteering or having the program in their facility they can contact Pam Withers at the Hunter Newcastle Pet Partners Branch on 4943 1110 or visit www.deltasocietyaustralia.com.au

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