Pet Therapy Dogs Return: Tails are Wagging and Smiles are Spreading

Benson (six) and Sam (eight) are both Golden Retrievers

After two years, therapy dogs are back at Peninsula Health. To celebrate their return, we spoke with Jeff and Judy who currently visit Frankston Hospital 1 West and 2 West and the Psychiatric Assessment and Planning Unit (PAPU) with their dogs, Benson and Sam, every two weeks.  

Benson (six) and Sam (eight) are both Golden Retrievers and Judy believes that they are the most photographed dogs on the Mornington Peninsula. “Once it took us an hour to get back to the car from the hospital, because staff, patients and visitors would stop us to say hello and take cute photos of the dogs,” Judy said. “Our last visit was very successful, with lots and lots of smiles, a few tears and loads of cuddles and photoshoots.”  

Both Judy and Jeff find bringing their therapy dogs in to visit extremely rewarding. “We have seen so many rewarding things and know we are making a difference. This is why we keep doing it,” Jeff said. Jeff has been a Peninsula Health pet therapy volunteer for six years, and Judy has been volunteering for 10 years.  

Pet therapy volunteers, Jeff and Judy, with their dogs, Benson and Sam.

“COVID-19 restrictions meant that we weren’t able to visit,” Judy added. “It is so great to be back and see the program up and running again.”  

To be therapy dogs, dogs must meet certain criteria, such as being well-socialised with other dogs and obedience trained, and the owners are also assessed to become volunteers. 

“Dogs have amazing instincts. Benson has to say hello to every person who enters the room. He just has a knack for it,” Jeff said. “The way the dogs are able to bring smiles to patients faces and help them socialise or feel calmer is incredible.”