‘Sunni the spaniel’ provides relief to aged care residents

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Seniors are strengthening their mental and physical wellbeing thanks to regular visits from a therapy dog at our Mackay Aged Care Facility.

Sunni, a seven-year-old gold cocker spaniel, is the furry friend at the centre of a newly developed pet visitation project started by Ozcare and Mackay-based builder Woollam Constructions.

“The evidence shows our stress hormones can be reduced by interacting with animals, and for seniors, who have had to leave beloved pets behind to go into aged care, the therapy sessions with Sunni are not only fun but also good for their mental health,” Ozcare’s Facility Manager Anne Crowley said.

Under the program, Sunni’s owner Ros Ballantyne, owner of Paws N Effect, a business set up to provide animal assisted therapy to people living in the Mackay region, said the full-trained pooch visited residents every week, including those living in the secure dementia wing.

“She loves engaging with everyone she meets and often just sits alongside them and laps up all the pats she gets from the residents and staff,” Ms Ballantyne said.

“It is well known and scientifically proven that the interaction with a gentle, friendly pet has significant benefits in lifting spirit and lessening depression. Sunni provides comfort and helps with anxiety and loneliness through her sessions.”

Without corporate support, Ms Ballantyne said the cost of training dogs like Sunni is difficult, however, Woollam Managing Director Craig Percival agreed to sponsor the weekly visits when the idea was first raised by Ozcare last year.

“It is great to see the meaningful difference dogs like Sunni make, and how they bring meaning to people’s lives is immeasurable,” Mr Percival said.

”You only have to see the joy that Sunni’s visits bring to Ozcare residents – and the staff love her too.

”The work Paws N Effect does through this service is invaluable and this sponsorship fits well with Woollam’s philosophy of supporting our local communities.”

@7NEWSMACKAY – thank you for the video !