MercyCare / News / Pet therapy, a hit with aged care residents

Pet therapy, a hit with aged care residents

Alfie, the therapy dog began his duties in February and now works two days a week with Wembley aged care and dementia residents.

The three-year-old cavoodle (hybrid of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle) is a qualified therapy dog, having begun his work experience and training as a six-month-old pup.

Alfie’s job is to make the residents happy, and he’s excelling at it.

His handler, MercyCare Lifestyle Therapy and Spirituality Coordinator Emma Chapman said Alfie had made a series of breakthroughs with several residents in his short time with them.

“There’s one resident who doesn’t participate in many activities and doesn’t really leave her room much but the minute I brought Alfie for a visit, she got up so quickly to see him,” Ms Chapman said.

“Another gentleman, who rarely leaves his wife’s side, was outside playing ball and laughing with Alfie until we had to persuade to come inside.

“He just makes people happy, it’s what he does.”

But the place Alfie has had the most impact is in the Ursula Wing – among residents living with dementia.

“He went to visit one lady the other day and she just rested her forehead on Alfie’s,” Ms Chapman said.

“She said, ‘you’ve made my day’ and that’s we try to do every day – make each day the happiest we can.

“People talk differently to dogs than they do with other people; they open up, they trust and they’re not afraid. Dogs bring so much to this job.”

As a young pup, Alfie’s calm temperament was recognised early and he became an early candidate for service dog training.

Service dogs are carefully selected for their behaviour, gentle manner, ability to stay calm and not be distracted by loud noises, other dogs or food.

“I don’t let him sit on the residents’ lap and he’s always on a lead,” Ms Chapman said.

“And of course, some people are afraid of dogs so I’m very careful to check who wants a visit from Alfie first.”

To the joy of Wembley residents, Alfie passed his probationary period and is here to stay.