Therapies — 10 March 2016

An old dog is teaching patients at Hornsby Hospital’s Mental Health Intensive Care Unit new tricks, in a first of its kind for the area.

Jack, a mixed breed rescue dog — saved by his owner Andrew Love when he was seven — visits people who are in the equivalent of the intensive care unit for mental health.

“A lot of dogs go to retirement homes and see the same people every week but most patients we only see once,” Mr Love said. “I take him food for the patients to give him and he’s quite happy hanging around wagging his tail … People there get satisfaction from it and I have some laughs with the staff and patients.

“It’s something I never saw myself doing, for me it’s a look into a different world it’s a world I’ve got no experience in. It’s kind of a bit of a sad place in a way but I think to myself. If I was in here I’d miss my dog and I would appreciate someone bringing a dog.”

Andrew Love with Jack the Therapy Dog, at Hornsby Hospital’s mental heath unit. Picture: Troy Snook

Hornsby Hospital diversional therapist Mark Kelly said Jack can read how people are feeling in the ward.

“If a client is down for the week he sees that and he goes to them and let’s them have a pat,” Mr Kelly said. “The stigma around mental health is very poor, it helps break down the barrier and it is not as scary and bad as it sounds.”

The program has been five years in the making and gives patients an opportunity to interact with an animal that doesn’t judge, Mr Kelly said.

“Andrew and Jack put their hand and paw up through the Delta Therapy Dogs Program, and their visits have had a very positive effect on the ward.

“It is incredible to see Jack bring a person, who may normally be quite introverted, out of their shell,” he said.

This article first appeared on ‘News Local’ on 9 March 2016.

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