The ONJ Centre recently welcomed golden retriever Lulu as part of the new Pet Therapy program from Lort Smith Animal Hospital. Lulu visits patients in the wards and spreads smiles and happiness wherever she goes.
The positive impact of the bond between people and animals is backed by scientific data, case studies and research. Benefits can be emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual; and are created when an animal's antics cause us to laugh or an animal aids us in therapy through patting, cuddling, or just being present.
“Lulu lifts patients’ spirits,” says Marilyn, one of Lulu’s owners. “You can see patients change when Lulu walks into the room and they start to smile and want to talk to her. They feel the joy of seeing and patting a dog, which many of them miss. It gives them and their families a shift of focus from the stress of cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Sharon, Lulu’s other owner, remembers visiting a man who was very sick and was unable to move. “He was wearing a plastic device to hold his head up and he could not speak very much,” she says. “He really wanted to pat Lulu and when he did he smiled and said ‘she’s really warm’. I found this very emotional because he was so sick but was just so happy to be able to touch Lulu and feel the warmth that a dog can bring.”
Lulu will soon be joined by some new recruits as the program expands. To be eligible, dogs must become Pet Therapy volunteers and are required to undergo formal training and assessment with Lort Smith. For further information please contact the Pet Therapy Co-ordinator Robin Felman on 03 9321 7233 or visit Lort Smith website here.
For further inquiries please contact:
Tracey O'Neill, Manager Volunteer Program
Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre