Robert became interested in volunteering with Delta Therapy Dogs after his wife Lyn started her Delta journey. He was intrigued by the stories she shared after her visits and soon enough he signed up to be assessed as a Delta volunteer with their two dogs Hudson who has been with the family since he was a puppy and Ruby who is a rescue. Both dogs were natural candidates for volunteering with Delta.
Robert alternates weekly therapy dog visits with both Hudson and Ruby following Lyn’s retirement from the program. He enjoys the one-on-one time with each dog and sees each visit as a special adventure. He is amazed how Hudson and Ruby respond to their roles as Delta Therapy Dogs compared to when they are out and about when not on official Delta duty and wearing their bandannas. Robert says Hudson is very laid back and will find a comfortable spot wherever an extended conversation takes place; often laying down on his back with his paws up, inviting tummy rubs to anyone who comes their way. In contrast, Ruby is alert to Robert and will often follow his lead and happy to please which has been noted by some of patients in the dementia ward where they visit.
It is the stories of how animals have brought joy which inspires Robert to continue his work with Delta Therapy Dogs. He recalls the story of a favourite resident who even with an ailing memory would be able to retell the story of how her beloved dachshund puppy won over her husband who at first was not in favour of their new puppy being inside the home. With a sense of timing and delivery, the resident would recall the story when she saw Hudson or Ruby. Each time the detail and punch line would be perfect- especially the part of the story which saw her returning home one day to see that their dachshund had not only been allowed inside, but her husband had also made a comfy spot on the bed with a pillow for the cute puppy. Robert says he never tiered of hearing the story or the sense of joy this moment brought the resident.
When visits to the nursing home were placed on hold due to the impact and restrictions brought on by COVID-19, Robert found he was faced with a sense of loss from not being able to maintain contact with residents, family visitors, and the staff he had visited for years. Robert is mindful that while his visits brought a bright change to the residents’ day, visits whether in-person or virtually relies a lot on the limited staff resources from the facility during these challenging times and looks forward to a friendly reunion when it’s once again safe to do so.
Most recently Robert has been able to continue to help Hudson and Ruby bring joy to people in need – this time virtually. He has undertaken the Delta Therapy Dogs Digital Induction to train and begin digital therapy dog visits from his home in Brisbane to a mental health facility in Melbourne. The facility has an existing online system which makes adapting online visits fairly seamless. So now Robert, Hudson, and Ruby connect with fellow dog lovers who are delighted to see two friendly dogs on the other side of the screen, especially when residing at the facility where they are separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time.
The visits are low-key and in small group so it easy for conversation to flow between Robert and beneficiaries of the program. “I feel it has been a worthwhile investment of time and resources. All the participants have been dog lovers and they have particularly appreciated the interactions with the dogs. A challenge has been to keep the dogs engaged but watching sleeping dogs is also therapeutic.”