The Renal Unit at Wagga Base Hospital had a special guest trot through their doors today as part of Kidney Health Week.
Bear is a Border Collie cross registered therapy dog who works alongside owner Millie Caspers, and the pair visited patients in the renal ward to help ease stresses associated with their arduous treatment process.
This was the first time the healthcare facility had branched out this type of therapy, but Nurse Unit Manager Mitch Wood said the benefits were extensive.
"We know throughout health research that pet therapy can help decrease anger, decrease stress and lower blood pressure, improve therapeutic relationships, decrease the stress of staff, and create a more relaxing environment, which means better supportive care," he said.
The patients in the renal unit can be in for treatment for up to 4-5 hours, three times a week, and Mr Wood said the presence of a dog can life their spirits.
"Our patients here are on on-going dialysis so need this support to maintain their quality of life," he said.
"Seeing innovative care coming forward is really exciting, and great for our clients so we can't wait to see how it helps long term and really hope it continues."
The beloved pet and therapy dog came from a dark place, according to owner Millie, making his loving temperament all the more inspiring.
"I actually found him on the side of the road and took him home, looked after him, and we became best friends," she said.
Millie is a provisional psychologist herself, but only started collaborating with her furry side-kick professionally in the last year or two.
"We went through training and registration at a place called Canine Support in Benalla about a year and a half ago," she said.
"I happened to mention I used to take Bear out to volunteer at a nursing home and my manager was quick to jump on that because Bear had a real aptitude for this type of work, so he started out as an office dog which was great, not only for clients but also the staff and boosting morale."
According to Millie, there is a specific set of tests to get approval to become a registered therapy dog and owner.
"To become registered it is a five day course of obedience and temperament testing, and he nailed it," she said.
Passionate about the well-being of animals and people, Millie said it was inspiring to see the impact Bear has on patients.
"I love it, and we love it together, you can really see the difference in clients and staff," she said.
"You can see the memories start flooding back in patients whether they had a childhood dog or a friend with one, and it gets them talking and telling stories so it's a good way to build rapport.
"Its something different for them too, you see them light up and it is refreshing for them, and gives them something to look forward to."
One of the patients in the renal unit, Michael Geoode, enjoyed Bear's company during his treatment.
"It's good to have the dog around the ward, it reminds me of a beautiful golden lab we had for 15 years so he definitely brings back memories," he said.
"It makes the day a little easier, and it's great to get to know the dog, he's such a friendly animal and it lifts the mood."
Millie added it wasn't just patients and staff Bear helps on a daily basis.
"He even helps me if I'm leading a tough session, he grounds me and helps me focus so I am very lucky to have him," she said.
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