Ashleigh and Lola’s bond is one of true companionship. Ashleigh never considered herself a ‘dog person’ but after welcoming Lola into her family everything has changed. Lola has found her way to Ashleigh’s heart by just being herself and by showing warmth and happiness, by helping to keep things in perspective. “Lola shows us love, warmth and happiness no matter what. She reminds me not to dwell on things and to move on when I have had a bad day or when I am grumpy or upset”.
Ashleigh always had a sense that Lola would have the right personality to be a therapy dog. It was a friendship with a Delta volunteer that sparked Ashleigh’s interest in applying to join Delta Therapy Dogs. “One day I went out for lunch with Cathie and our two dogs, and Cathie noticed how Lola intrinsically sat for pats, wagged her tail and happily took pats from people walking by. Cathie said that Lola seemed like the perfect candidate for Delta. I had not heard of Delta before but looked into it. I decided that I wanted to give back to people in need and thought this was a perfect way to do it”
Lola has become a major part of Ashleigh’s life. Before having Lola as part of the family, Ashleigh spent a lot of time at home. This has changed significantly since welcoming Lola as she as Lola is so social and attracts so many curious onlookers, Ashleigh has also been able to open up to people she may not have connected with prior to not having a dog in her life. Most people just love the sight of a friendly dog and it’s this mutual interest that brings on questions and the sharing of common experiences.
“Lola’s beautiful personality has allowed us an opportunity to volunteer our time with people that often lack human connection. This has enriched my life by allowing an opportunity to extend compassion and empathy out to others that are in need.” Lola just loves to be around people and ‘people-watch’ so it means that she is also happy to be approached by others for pats and attention. She learned at a young age that if she sat patiently beside someone she would be rewarded with a gentle pat or compliment. Being a part of the Delta Therapy Dog community also means that both Ashleigh and Lola have benefited from the knowledge of positive reward based training. For example, Ashleigh loves to take Lola on sniffing walks, not just ones that require lots of physical exercise. Sniffing walks is where Lola is learning nose work and using other senses. These moments give Ashleigh the opportunity to practice mindfulness and to enjoy the moment. “I have learned that walks don’t need to be about exercise, they can be about getting out in nature and just taking in what is around us. She has also taught me to slow down and just appreciate my surroundings. I often watch her sunbake in the yard or lie on the deck, just taking in the world. Lola inadvertently reminds me to use my afternoon walks or coffee dates as a way to practice mindfulness and self-care.”
While visits Lola is always welcome by the residents at the local aged care facility. Walking down the hallways of the centre, Lola acts as a gentle ice breaker and helps residents to connect with Ashleigh, especially by those who are naturally shy or who don’t always have visitors.
Ashleigh is also aware of the need for some people to gradually warm up to the presence of a therapy dog at the centre. She recalls visiting a lady prior to the Covid-19 restrictions who was mostly non-verbal and who would repeat a few words over and over again. Sadly this resident rarely received visitors and so she grew to love spending time with Lola. Ashleigh recalls the time where she was reminded just how important Lola's visits were to the residents. "This one day I had gone to visit this lady with Lola and s he was asleep at the time I went to her room. Just as I was leaving I thought I would double check to see if she was awake as I knew how much she looked forward to Lola's visits. As I walked in I noticed that lunch had just been served. I apologised and told her that I missed her earlier but could see she was having lunch and therefore would catch her next time. She shook her head and gently pushed her lunch table to the side and pointed at Lola. I asked if she wanted to have a cuddle and she nodded. It was touching to see how excited she was for Lola's visit.” It is this growing bond that makes Ashleigh and Lola a wonderful Delta Therapy Dog team - and how generous of them to share it with others.