Canine Friends Pet Therapy share the love with those who need it most (see article by Sarah Cates, in the Hawke's Bay App, Sunday, July 21, 2019).
Kallista-Rose, Chris, Debbie and Busta
The room lit up. It was Busta's - and owner Debbie Watts' - first visit to Eversley Rest Home in Hastings.
They both took it in their stride. Debbie, full of proud smiles, with a very handsome two-year-old Golden Retriever by her side, made their way around the room, leaving a trail of joy behind them.
Canine Friends Pet Therapy brings the healing love of a dog to those who need it the most.
Busta making friends with Hazel.
Hawke’s Bay Liaison Officer Chris Partridge openly shows her emotion as Busta works his magic.
Chris says, “It can be very emotional! Somehow, the dogs open people up. Those who haven’t spoken for a while, folks who are down in the dumps and haven’t managed a smile in sometime and those that are unwell or lonely. The dogs just know, they know who needs the extra attention. It’s astonishing. Sometimes, I go back to the car and have a little cry!”.
After 30 years, and with almost 800 members throughout New Zealand, Canine Friends Pet Therapy has come a long way since its founder, Eileen Curry, first recognised the necessity for people entering rest homes and residential care, to have continued contact with dogs.
“Eileen was working for the SPCA when she met an elderly woman who had to move from her house to a small flat. Sadly, her dog was not allowed to go with her. Eileen saw how upsetting this was for the women; the despair of separation was terrible to see. It was then Eileen offered to visit the women with her own dog in a hope it would help settle the women in,” Chris says.
From these humble beginnings, the organisation now brings therapy to thousands of people. Eileen’s philosophy hasn’t altered, it was and always will be, about the love.
Eileen said, “It’s about the love dogs have for people and our wish to share that with others”.
Debbie Watts with her gorgeous Busta.
Bev, a diversional therapist based in Eversley, sees the immediate and long-term benefits regular visits from the dogs bring to the residents.
Bev says, “You can see the warmth and love in the dog’s eyes. And this love is reciprocated from the person. The dogs are attracted to those who need that love. It’s not just tactile, a deeper bond develops. The residents look forward to the visit, it becomes a very important part of their lives. And, it’s not just the dog they build a relationship with, it’s the owner too”.
The healing attributes of dogs have been well documented. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that shows spending time with a dog has a multitude of positive health and well-being benefits.
When we pat a friendly dog our blood pressure goes down, heartrate slows, we relax as muscle tension lessens and our breathing becomes more regular. Stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are lowered and the ‘happy’ hormone – oxytocin is released.
But it goes well beyond science. Our bond with dogs began thousands of years ago when our ancestors first locked eyes with the more sociable, and we could say ‘sweet’ wolves, looking for a space by the campfire. This started a unique and universally cherished, relationship between human and dog.
Kallista-Rose giving Busta a well-done hug.
Debbie and Busta's first visit to Eversley marked the beginning of a new set of unknown relationships waiting to blossom.
Debbie said, “I loved that! It feels so good to share Busta and just give something back. I am very happy to give up some of my time to bring happiness to others through Busta”.
As we left the residents and staff waved goodbye to Debbie and Busta. It was emotional, even the staff were a little misty-eyed.
Chris’s granddaughter ‘Kallista-Rose’ a proud owner of three dogs, gave Busta a well-done hug. The love she felt for all dogs was obvious.
Kallista-Rose said “I was born with dogs! I love them. They have such great personalities and are so kind”.
Chris would love to share more dogs with the community. Canine Friends Pet Therapy also take dogs into Universities, hospitals and places of employment.
Chris says, “We are always looking for new members and are very keen to meet owners that want to share their dogs”.
Chris adds, “Not all dogs are suitable for the role, they have to friendly, well-behaved, and love human contact. We go out and visit the owner and the dog for an assessment first and take it from there. If all goes well, I then match the dog in a suitable placement. I try to get a small and a big dog in one place if I can!”
This is valuable work. Thanks to Eileen and all the amazing volunteers, thousands of people who maybe stressed, troubled, unwell or lonely receive companionship and healing from one of Canine Friends Pet Therapy’s teams.
If you have a suitable dog and some time to share, visit Canine Friends Pet Therapy’s website for more information.