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“You can see and feel the difference”: A decade of furry hospital friends

Qualified dog behaviourist and Pet Therapy founder Dave Edlond with his Wheaten Terrier ‘Maya’.

Canine enthusiast and Pet Therapy founder David Edlond combines two of his life’s passions at work.

On his days driving patients around for Peninsula Health’s non emergency vehicle sector, the 67-year-old from Somerville is kept company by his Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier ‘Maya’.

“Two years ago I applied to the health service through the board, to have a puppy ride in the wheelchair bus and it got approval,” says Dave, a Patient Services Driver

“Maya meets all the patients and when I get time away from transporting patients, I then take her around the hospital, in places like Orthopaedics, Dialysis and the Emergency Department. Depending on time, I incorporate visits as part of my job.”

The Pet Therapy team will return to Peninsula Health sites once Covid-19 restrictions ease. 

Maya’s regular interaction with patients both in the vehicles and in hospitals, is a tangible example of how far the Pet Therapy Volunteer Program has come.

This year marks ten years since the group’s formation as a two dog, two person operation.

In 2010, Peninsula Health enabled the commencement of a Pet Therapy program to assist in patient care and recovery.

“I was working at Rosebud Hospital back in 2010, when I was asked whether I could help start up a pet therapy program,” says Dave.

“At the time, I was running puppy training classes at a Veterinary clinic in Chelsea. Prior to that, I’d completed a course in conjunction with Delta Therapy Australia”

Initially, Dave would bring in his trained 18-month old German Shepherd ‘Zeta’ to the hospital, along with a puppy from the Veterinary clinic in Chelsea into the hospitals. 

They would visit elderly residents at a singular Peninsula Health site.

After nine months, another two volunteers and their dogs joined. Today there are an astonishing 14 volunteer-dog combinations, who regularly visit and interact with patients and clients across many Peninsula Health sites. Many of the dog handlers, are former hospital staff or ex-nurses.

Pet Therapy volunteers are easily identifiable by their striking blue shirts and hats.

“The whole idea is to bring well-mannered dogs into the hospital to visit patients and take their mind off what they’re doing in hospital,” says Dave.

“What we’ve found is Pet Therapy is one of the bet things you can have in wards – you can see and feel the difference.”

“Many patients are away from their pets, and while not everyone loves dogs, most people really do relate to animals and enjoy having that tactile interaction.”

“I love dogs and I love the feeling of going in there and making someone’s day feel good.”

For more information about the Pet Therapy program, please visit Volunteering at Peninsula Health

Ward visits by the Pet Therapy team regularly bring smiles to patients and staff.