Dubbo Photo News - - Front page - By YVETTE AUBUS­SON-FO­LEY

Bazil, Milo, Scooter and Abbey are fine ex­am­ples of why many pet own­ers love dogs. They’re com­pan­ions, friends and fam­ily mem­bers, and when they’re not be­hav­ing, there’s Learn­ers on Lead owner Karen Johnston to turn to for help get­ting ev­ery­one back on the same page.

Be­ing ex­cel­lent learn­ers of obe­di­ence is one rea­son why dogs get real jobs too – as as­sis­tance an­i­mals, for the po­lice or de­fence forces, and even in drug de­tec­tion.

In­creas­ingly though, these four-legged friends are find­ing them­selves ex­celling in the field of ther­apy, work­ing with se­niors in our res­i­den­tial care fa­cil­i­ties.

Dubbo Photo News jumped at the chance for an ex­clu­sive look in­side Holy Spirit Dubbo to see the heart-warm­ing – and some say mirac­u­lous – re­sults that two dogs in par­tic­u­lar are achiev­ing with res­i­dents, even sit­ting down with them to play bingo.

IT’S enough to stop any­one in their tracks when an el­derly woman in res­i­den­tial care, who doesn’t speak or en­gage with oth­ers, sud­denly starts call­ing out the name of a dog which makes reg­u­lar vis­its.

Lone­li­ness, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and con­fu­sion are com­mon for peo­ple with de­men­tia, but pet ther­apy can vis­i­bly help re­duce these symp­toms, calm­ing anger and re­duc­ing help­less­ness and frus­tra­tion which peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia can ex­pe­ri­ence.

Learn­ers on Lead owner Karen Johnston reg­u­larly takes her black Labrador ‘Scooter’ to Holy Spirit Aged Care in Dubbo where she has seen the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect in­ter­act­ing with a dog can ` have.

“It cre­ates con­ver­sa­tions with the res­i­dents. Even be­tween vis­it­ing fam­ily mem­bers and their loved one who may not know them any­more,” Mrs Johnston told Dubbo Photo News.

“It helps them to talk. Of­ten a dog will take them back to a happy mem­ory of that pet and they’ll talk about those mem­o­ries.

“They might just be sit­ting there all dull and noth­ing’s go­ing on, but when the dog starts in­ter­act­ing it gives the per­son a pur­pose to in­ter­act, and you can see a re­turn of aware­ness and joy for that time that they’re in­ter­act­ing with the dogs, which is lovely,” Mrs Johnston said.

Stud­ies into the car­dio­vas­cu­lar benefits of pat­ting a dog have shown it low­ers blood pressure sig­nif­i­cantly, much more so than a per­son to per­son in­ter­ac­tion which aids so­cial­i­sa­tion and in turn helps self-es­teem, in­de­pen­dence, and re­duced anx­i­ety.

“In res­i­den­tial care there are needed in­ter­ac­tions be­tween staff and res­i­dents, like be­ing helped to take a shower for ex­am­ple, or with dress­ing, but when a per­son with de­men­tia in­ter­acts with a dog it’s the type of con­tact the per­son has con­trol over, it’s a choice,” Mrs Johnston said.

Scooter is not the only four-legged vis­i­tor to Holy Spirit.

Recre­ational Ac­tiv­i­ties Officer Matt Walsh reg­u­larly brings his bor­der col­lie Indy and res­i­dents are used to shar­ing vis­its with both dogs.

Indy is even known to sit up at the ta­ble to join in with bingo!

◦ De­men­tia Ac­tion Week runs from Septem­ber 16 to 22. Reach the Na­tional De­men­tia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

◦ The Royal Com­mis­sion into Aged Care Qual­ity and Safety vis­its Dubbo next week – Mon­day, Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 16, 17 and 18. Var­i­ous times, 50-minute ses­sions, phone 1800 960 711 to book. Ses­sions held at the Mile­stone Ho­tel, Dubbo

Of­ten a dog will take them back to a happy mem­ory...



Above: Holy Spirit resident Eric Bolton, Scooter, Learn­ers on Lead owner and trainer Karen Johnston, and resident Ch­eryl Bell. Right: Holy Spirit recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties officer Matt Walsh with Indy.

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