Leelah is the dog for the job.
‘‘She’s really smart and so gentle, compared to our other dog who is quite feisty and has a really short attention span.’’
Young trained in diversional therapy in Australia five years ago and is now teaching a new generation of therapists in the central city.
Therapists run programmes that involve anything from games and outings to exercise and massage.
Young once dressed up in a bear costume on Valentine’s Day and went about her day handing out chocolates and flowers to residents. She says therapists can have a huge impact on clients.
‘‘Sometimes you meet people in rest homes who are feeling like they don’t have any purpose or value in their lives but when you’re a diversional therapist you can change that,’’ she says.
‘‘I love it so much that it doesn’t really feel like you’re working. You could be in the worst mood and then you go in to see these elderly people and they are so pleased to see you and we have so much fun.’’
Dealing with some clients’ challenging behaviour can be difficult and it’s something Leelah will have to get used to, Young says.
‘‘It is a fun job but I think people sometimes underestimate what goes into it – you have to be a very organised person but also have the ability to think on your feet a lot.’’
Leelah is already accompanying Young to class to get her students used to working around her. They are also helping to fundraise for Leelah’s training.