Therapy dogs add to spiritual healing

Therapy dog Sophie with patient Mitchell Cleary. d416874
Therapy dog Sophie with patient Mitchell Cleary. d416874

After arriving to cries of ‘Sophie’s here’, generous pats behind the ears and ‘Hey girl, how’s it going?’ at the nurses station, the seven-year-old golden retriever gets to work making her weekly rounds.

Owner Roz Hart said she and Sophie started volunteering at the hospital six months ago and found that it was the ‘perfect fit’ because they both loved meeting new people.

‘In one ward we went in to, there were four guys sitting with long faces. When we left, they were all busy chatting about their dogs. It just changed the whole atmosphere.

‘We’re leaving people with smiles on their faces.’

Scarborough man Mitchell Cleary (24) is clearly one of Sophie’s favourites.

Mr Cleary suffered extensive brain damage last year and his mother Pippa said he loved holding Sophie’s lead and keeping her close.

‘Mitch and Sophie have a real affinity together,’ Ms Cleary said. ‘He really relates to her and she really relates to him. She often sits down and falls asleep right next to him.’

Chaplain Russell Mitchell said he was inspired to introduce a therapy dog program to the Shenton Park campus after seeing its success at Murdoch hospice.

‘It takes the patient out of the hospital environment for a little bit,’ Mr Mitchell said.

‘For that moment, being with the dog and talking with Roz, it’s all part of spiritual healing.’