Bringing smiles to the faces of aged care residents across the region, Wally the therapy dog will soon become the first official four-legged Salvation Army community care member in South Australia.
The two-year-old chocolate Labrador will join the ranks of the not-for-profit organisation in an official presentation at The Salvation Army Millicent office sat 10am on Sunday.
Accompanied by Port MacDonnell resident and owner Ross Patterson, the much-loved companion will receive a certificate and official Salvation Army photo identification for his work in residential aged care facilities.
"Wally is a very friendly, placid and gentle natured dog and has a wonderful personality for this type of work,” MrPatterson said. "He’s everybody’s friend, as long as theyhave Schmackos."
Also working with South Australian Community organisation Caring Canine Companions, Mr Patterson has been training Wally since he was a puppy to provide company for residents in aged care facilities.
Making regular visits to Resthaven, Boandik Lodge and The Oaks Nursing Home, Wally is a big hit with residents,many of whom left behind their own petswhen they moved into aged care.
"A lot of these people had to leave their little pups at home and in some cases leaving pets behind is the hardest part of being in an aged care facility - Wally really fills that niche," Mr Patterson said.“I think the ability to care about an animal is very normalising for the residents - some have ended up in a position of feeling pretty helpless, so it really brightens their day when Wally visits.
Mr Patterson calls Wally his "best mate" and said he often catches residents sneaking the therapy dog treats. "My main problem is trying to stop people from stuffing him full of lollies,sweets and cookies - he’s very spoilt," Mr Patterson said. For his part, Wally, who sports a custom-made Salvation Army jacket, feels right at home at the aged care facilities,walking into the centres “like he owns the place".
"He trots into Resthaven like he owns the place, puts his paws up on the counter to say hello to everyone and then bolts down the hallway to visit his favourite residents," Mr Patterson said.“He’s a wonderful dog."
This article appeared on The South Eastern Times, Thursday, October 18, 2012. Thank you for allowing us to republish.