A therapy dog called Angel is bringing smiles to the residents of the Bethlehem Home for the Aged.
The 120 people who call the Golden Square aged care facility home have been taking part in the Delta Therapy Dogs session every Monday.
Lifestyle Coordinator at Mercy Health Bethlehem, Kylie Paxton, said the residents love the visits from the Golden Retriever and her owner Mary Tuohey.
“Every time they see Angel, they have big smiles on their faces,” Ms Paxton said. “They’re completely focused on the dog and the happiness she brings.”
“Some residents save treats for her,” she said. “And Angel’s a very intelligent dog so she remembers and always goes to those residents first.”
The Bethlehem Home for the Aged is one of 850 centres around the country using Delta Therapy Dogs.
The program provides support to over 20,000 people in aged care facilities and hospitals around the country.
Mary Tuohey and Angel became an accredited therapy dog team two years ago and have been visiting the Golden Square centre ever since.
“We visit people who are missing their own dog or who have issues with the disruption of going into care,” Ms Tuohey said.
Ten-year-old Angel, and other therapy dogs like her, provide sensory comfort for people in aged care facilities.
Residents are encouraged to pat her, which Ms Tuohey assures is just as enjoyable for Angel as it is the residents.
“It provides these people an opportunity to connect with a dog,” she said. “Angel can be quite good at emulating positive thoughts and memories in the residents.”
“She has a relaxing effect on people,” Ms Tuohey said.
While visits from Angel each Monday are a special part of the week for residents, there are also therapy rabbits that people living at the facility can access at any time.
Mercy Health’s Kylie Paxton said there are two rabbits that are available for one-on-one time.
“We let them roam around and the residents just love it,” she said. “We have one gentleman in particular who loves to just have a rabbit resting on his shoulder.”
Mary Touhy said the therapy is not only special for the residents but also for the animals and their owners.
“It gives me a great sense of pleasure and accomplishment,” she said. “When I see the response and reaction of the residents, their families and staff, it’s very rewarding.”
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