Sophie brings hope to patients

Patient Mitchell Cleary with golden retriever Sophie and owner Roz Hart. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d416874
Patient Mitchell Cleary with golden retriever Sophie and owner Roz Hart. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d416874

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

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

‘I would take Sophie with me to work, to Pilates, she would even come to the gym with me ” we are inseparable,’ she said.

‘Then a friend said to me: ‘Why don’t you take her somewhere she’s meant to go, instead of pushing your luck all the time?’

‘I can see we are making a difference here.

‘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.’

Ms Hart said many patients had formed a special bond with Sophie but Mitchell Cleary (24) was clearly one of her favourites.

Although Mr Cleary suffered extensive brain damage last year, his mother Pippa said she could tell 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.’

RPRH 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.’