Therapy dogs elevate spirits
Playful pooch Leelah is training for a life as a therapy dog to help her owner Hannah Young in her work. The pair sat down with reporter Jess Lee to talk about the benefits.
It’s no dog’s pup Leelah.
The 9-month-old German shepherd is embarking on a career as a therapy dog.
Pet assisted diversional therapy takes place everywhere from hospitals to community centres. Diversional therapists run activity programmes to improve people’s quality of life.
When Leelah is fully trained she will go into rest homes with her owner Hannah Young.
‘‘The residents just love it when a pet therapy dog comes in to see them.
‘‘People can pet them or just talk to them, it kind of makes people come out of their shell a bit more,’’ Young says.
The 28-year-old is fundraising to get Leelah a headstart in the therapy game with training from expert dog trainer Mark Vette.
Leelah will need to learn how to act around the elderly and will be schooled to place her head in a person’s lap so that they can pat her.
Young has no doubt that
life for young 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.