Therapy Dogs connect with people

Mr Maxie started out life as a tiny little puppy from a rescue group in Poowong Victoria. Because of his unique looks and 'questionable parentage' I had him DNA tested and discovered that he is a Bullmastiff x American Staffordshire Terrier x Russian Wolfhound.
I have raised him to think he is a lap dog, which has some issues now that he is 47kg, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Max is an incredibly smart and sensitive dog who adores any affection from his 'people friends'.
Due to these traits I always thought that it would be great to work him as a therapy dog.
In 2019 I was accredited through Lead The Way Institute as a visiting therapy dog team, and started volunteering at Hazelwood House in Churchill.
Once Max adjusted to the foreign sounds and smells he loved his visits, and would run in with a big smile on his face. Adored by staff and residents Max was a welcome visitor who would lap up all the ear scratches, and crumbs on the floor.
Depending on needs we would visit residents who were confined in their rooms, visit people in the shared living room areas or walk with those who were up and about.
It is a great opportunity to meet with people and Max is a great ice breaker who opens up conversations.
Many residents have had to leave behind dogs when they moved in, or have fond memories of their old family dogs which they love to discuss.
When Hazelwood House shut we decided to continue at Dalkeith Gardens instead of starting again at a different nursing home.
When we arrived at Dalkeith there were a number of old friends who were very pleased to see Max’s friendly face in their new home.
Moving with the residents is only one small part of making the transition smoother, but it has been greatly appreciated by those who look forward to his visits. Now we are at Dalkeith Max has made some new friends too, and it is a great opportunity for the residents to access during our weekly visits.
The focus is on connecting with people and providing a therapeutic benefit through both conversation and the presence of a dog.
Max loves meeting everyone, but staff are also able to point out residents who may be in need of extra encouragement. We are able to make use of the whole premises and walk in the garden with people too if it will encourage them to get out of bed and be active.
Pictured is Max having some time with one of his favorite residents, Russell. After the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted we look forward greatly to returning to our normal visiting schedule.


Churchill and District News is a community newspaper staffed by volunteers.


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