Pet Therapy in Aged Care

Respected Lower Hutt dog breeder Eileen Curry started Canine Friends Pet Therapy with a group of like-minded friends in 1990. She was working with the SPCA when she witnessed a distressing incident that was the catalyst for Canine Friends. An elderly woman was going into care and she could not take her beloved dog with her, nor had any family to take the dog. Eileen was very moved at witnessing the owner’s despair at parting with her dog that she offered to visit the woman with one of her own dogs. She quickly realised this could be a service that would bring comfort to many people, especially the elderly who feel isolated, stressed and afraid.

Volunteers share the company of their well-behaved dogs with residents in rest homes, patients in hospitals and hospices in over thirty regions, with members currently visiting 363 rest homes, 16 hospitals, and 12 hospices around the country.

Canine Friends Pet Therapy Inc. is a nationwide and respected charity with 855  members who are informed, caring dog owners. Members are volunteers who invest in animal welfare issues and Canine Friend’s principal goal of sharing their well behaved, cherished family pets with those who are unable to have a dog of their own.  These volunteers understand the value of pet therapy and enjoy seeing the benefits to those they visit in rest homes, hospitals and hospices. Naturally, the dogs are all shapes and sizes, pedigree and mixed breeds and prior to acceptance are assessed by an experienced assessor.

Research shows that simply patting a dog can reduce stress levels, calm a racing heart and help lower blood pressure. Memories of loved pets and happier times return and the emphasis shifts from feeling unwell or lonely.  A dog creates friendships, breaks down barriers and provides a kind distraction during anxious moments helping people feel reconnected to the world.

A vital part of the success of the charity is the five-year partnership with Dogs NZ.  This enables Canine Friends to train regional liaison officers and gives access to New Zealand’s “dog” community through monthly features in the NZ Dog World publication. This regular exposure over time has raised the awareness of the value of pet therapy and has increased the number of applications from dog-savvy people who want to share their lovely dogs with others less fortunate.

Premium pet food company Ziwi is a sponsor of Canine Friends and this sponsorship enables unencumbered growth, enhancing services by providing support and appreciation to volunteers. A quarterly newsletter goes out to all facilities and if you would like to know more about having dogs visit your facility then visit their website for more information. Click here