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.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

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