DELTA DOGS VOLUNTEERING by Betty Lou Pitt

Volunteering – My Story

Betty Lou & Maggie
Betty Lou & Maggie

Volunteering – the word conjures up sausage sizzles, cake stalls, second hand shops, car washes and ticket selling. Not for me I thought. I was retired, fit and healthy but I was busy looking after husband, David, playing golf, gardening, walking my two dogs, going to movies with friends, sewing, reading, cooking and generally lazing around. What more did I need or want and was it really necessary?

Then one day about four months ago I met Anne, the co-ordinator of Delta Therapy Dogs, Cairns and she was inspirational and enthusiastic. On that day I knew that I had found my own special way of volunteering. It wouldn’t be life changing as it was only 2-3 hours a week but it was a way I could help less fortunate people and Anne made it sound interesting and fun.

Delta Therapy Dogs is a national, non-profit organisation that believes man and animal bonding improves quality of life. It brightens your day, makes you feel loved and enriches your day to day routine. Delta dogs visit care homes, hospitals and schools in the local area. This one to one interaction between people and dogs hopefully leaves lasting, warm and friendly memories.

Delta Dogs 4 (2)

My husband and I have always had dogs and we love them a lot. They are always spoilt, affectionate and friendly. Anne met my two dogs – an 11 year old Weimaraner called Campbell and a 2 year old Border terrier called Maggie. Unfortunately Campbell was too old, too big and arthritic but Maggie was perfect – cute, little, friendly and well behaved. Anne persuaded me that Maggie and I would have a happy and rewarding time and so the process began. Maggie was going to be a Delta dog.

 

Every dog had to be tested and that was a scary experience. Would she pass and would I be suitable? We went to a gathering – morning tea and treats for all the dogs. Maggie and I were put through the paces. There were wheel chairs going every which way, men with walking sticks shuffling around, getting in the way, loud noises from pan lids, dishes of food scattered around and lots of other dogs. Maggie remained calm and well behaved. I was nervous. Would she come when called? Would she bark, scratch or get frightened? No worries – she passed with flying colours and I had a cup of tea.

I was very proud and happy.

Delta Dogs 3

The next week we went to Regis Residential Care Home at Redlynch, a suburb of Cairns. I met the lifestyle co-ordinator, Dee. She is in charge of programmes to enhance the quality of life of the residents. She is hard working, professional and enthusiastic. After an introductory talk on the core values of the home and a working knowledge of the hand washing routine and fire drills we were set to go and meet the residents.

On that first day we visited about 20 men and women in their rooms or in the lounges. Some were willing to have Maggie on their laps or bed, some stroked her while I sat next to them, some fed her biscuits and a few weren’t sure. Everyone wanted to know about us and were eager to have a chat. I heard many life stories – some sad, some brave, some funny but all interesting. Their memories were all around us – cards, photos and flowers.

We have been there a few times now and we look forward to it every week. Sometimes we hear the same stories, sometimes new memories of family especially grandchildren, former homes close by or in faraway towns and countries, holidays and cruises, sports they used to play and wars they have fought.. It has been an amazing, emotional and fulfilling experience.

Volunteering – Maggie’s Story.

Another day – a walk, breakfast, sniffing around the garden, playing with my toys, sleeping, another walk, dinner and sleeping on the big bed. What a good life.

Oh no – today is bath day! That only means one thing. We are going visiting and I am going to see all my new friends in the big house. On goes my pretty red collar and my blue lead and I jump into the car. I know the way now and I’m very excited.
My friends love seeing me and I get lots of hugs, kisses, pats and cuddles. Sometimes I jump on their big comfy layback chairs and have a little rest on their laps. I have to be careful not to scratch their legs and arms, jump up or knock them over. My owner talks to them and they tell her about dogs they used to have. Sometimes she helps them with their painting or jigsaws so I just curl up and have a little nap. It’s quite hard being good.

At first they were not too sure about me but now everybody loves me even the nurses. It’s my special day and I hope I bring a bit of love and happiness to my friends.

After a few hours I’m ready to go home to my good mate Campbell. I tell him all about my amazing day. He is very impressed. Then it’s time for a run, dinner and sleep. What a good day.

For more information contact: Delta Society Australia at: www.deltasociety.com.au or email: info@deltasociety.com.au