International Therapy Dog Awareness Month

94-year-old Arcare Glenhaven aged care resident, Mona Robertson had spent 88 years being terrified of dogs, due to a traumatic experience as a child. Thanks to Maple, a 10-year-old Labrador who visits Arcare Glenhaven regularly as part of a Pet Therapy program, she’s recently overcome that hurdle – showing you’re never too old to face your fears and make a new furry friend!

Sandra Merhi from the Hills Pet Buddies visits Arcare Glenhaven residents with the much-loved black Labrador, Maple and several other pet therapy pooches, on a weekly basis.

The Arcare Glenhaven Lifestyle staff thought Mona might enjoy a visit, given that she spends a lot of time in her room, and it would be good to get her out and socialising. When asked if she would like a visit from Maple, Mona refused at first exclaiming, “the last time I patted a dog was when I was six, when it bit me”. After reassuring her that Maple was a therapy dog, and would not bite, she hesitantly agreed.

At first, Maple sat facing away from Mona, so Mona could pat her back without fear of being bitten. Slowly but surely, Maple began to turn around until the two were facing, and Maple sitting next to her feet. Mona patted her head and ears with no hesitation. At one point, Mona said, “she looks like she is smiling at me. Oh, what a sweet dog she is!”

When the staff asked if Maple could visit her again, Mona said, Yes please, I enjoyed seeing Maple very much! I never thought I would have been patting a dog today.”

Dog therapy has been proven to help with many issues such as anxiety, depression and even speech. When first introduced, the program was so well received by the residents that the team decided to add it as a regular part of Glenhaven’s social and leisure calendar. The dogs in the Hill Pet Buddies program work on a six-week rotation, meaning the residents get the opportunity to meet and make friends with a range of wonderful dogs.