By Jean Anselmi

    It is easy to understand the health benefits of pet ownership. A dog is always happy to see you no matter how badly the rest of your day has gone. If you are anxious, the purring of your cat will make an oasis of peace. 

    For those that are lonely, patting an animal addresses a human need for physical contact and relieves stress. Even watching a fish swim in an aquarium might be a period of mindfulness that allows you to relax and reset.

    Having the responsibility of looking after an animal can provide a sense of purpose, bringing structure into your day. For those who are struggling with mental health issues, being able to tick off simple routine tasks like feeding a pet can provide a sense of achievement. I observed an ill child with extreme anxiety and agoraphobia manage to respond to mental health professionals when in the presence of a dog.

    Apart from the obvious physical health benefits of walking a dog, a truth universally acknowledged is that people walking their dogs talk to other people walking their dogs increasing social interaction. Other pets can also increase your social network with an array of interest groups online. For those who find it hard to initiate conversation, a pet is an easy conversation starter in most situations.

    There is no denying that pets are a luxury. Feeding a pet, providing proper veterinary care and grooming a pet can be costly. That means that the most vulnerable of the population, who might benefit most from pet exposure, may find ownership out of their reach.

    Luckily there are programs that fill this gap. One of the best is Delta Therapy Dogs, a not-for-profit organisation that brings pets to people. 

    The dogs visit hospitals, aged care facilities, dementia wards, mental health facilities, palliative care, disability services, health clinics and schools. Delta Therapy Dogs believe the human-animal bond improves quality of life.

    David Elliot, a veterinarian at Hobsons Bay Veterinary Clinic, has provided veterinary checks to Delta Therapy Dogs on behalf of local pet owners who volunteer their animals as part of the program and believes the program provides a significant service to the local community.

    You can get involved:
    Be a volunteer: Does your dog light up a room? Do you love meeting new people? Find out whether the program is a good fit for you and your dog.
    Set up a program in your facility or school: Fill in an expression of interest online.
    Help with funding: You can donate, sponsor a team or get involved in fundraising programs. 

    Delta Therapy Dogs

    Your feedback

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here



    Latest Articles

    Latest edition

    #96 May 2024

    Recent editions



    Become a supporter

    The Westsider is run on the power of volunteers. Your contribution directly contributes to ensuring we can continue serving and celebrating our community.

    Related articles