Diversional therapist Faye Leveridge, her dog Dougal, and Carter Court resident Bill Cardno. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Dougal the dog is the epitome of the saying, man’s best friend.
The 13-year-old pooch has a special job working alongside his owner, Faye Leveridge, a diversional therapist at Carter Court in Carterton.
As a trained therapy dog, Dougal brings cheer to people with dementia, loneliness, and the elderly in need of a best friend.
“Dougal has worked in homes since he was 6 months old,” Mrs Leveridge said.
“He’s 13 and a half now and the residents just love him to bits.
“Dougal is more their dog than mine.”
Mrs Leveridge said her trusty companion used to come into work every day, but due to slight overfeeding by the residents he has had visits cut back to once or twice a week.
“People with dementia, if they’re sitting there not responding, he’ll put his nose under their hand and lift their hand.
“It’s nice to see the change in people after that – I’ve had people smile and talk that haven’t smiled or talked for a year or two.”
She said Dougal is often called to people’s sickbeds and he even stays with people while they are dying.
“He remembers these people and keeps going back to their room to check up on them. It’s very moving.”
As a diversional therapist, Mrs Leveridge helps elderly and the disabled meet leisure needs to enhance their quality of life.
She introduces these people to activities which “stimulate and enhance [their] spiritual, emotional, social, cognitive and psychological needs”.
“We go to the beach, RSA, shopping, bowls… It stops people from feeling isolated.”
“Dougal does a large part of my job – he has done so much for me, where I can’t break through a surface with someone.
“For example, someone might not want to do anything, they don’t even want to eat or drink.
“So, I’ll ask them if they can hold the dog for a bit, and they love it. It gives them responsibility.”
She said a particular gentleman complained that the only dogs he had known were farm dogs, working dogs – “that’s not a working dog”, he had said.
“But every day, he waited for me to come to work, took the ‘non-working dog’, and the ‘non-working’ dog had to sit beside him every day while he patted him.
“Then, the man started eating and drinking again – because he was talking to the dog, he was happy.”
Mrs Leveridge said if she ever lived in a rest home, “they’re going to have to bring in my dogs, my cats, my chooks, and my duck”.
“At Carter Court we are a very pet-friendly home as you can see… we’ve got goldfish, cats, birds – it’s a home away from home.
“The old institution of rest homes has gone out the door.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as that anymore.”
This week is diversional therapy awareness week.
What is diversional therapy?
Diversional therapy is: “A professional practice which recognises and facilitates purposeful recreational leisure activities with individual client choice to increase the physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and sexual well-being of all people in a supportive environment”.
Diversional therapists are emplyed in residential care facilities, hospitals, community day-stay facilities, and private homes throughout New Zealand.
They work with age and disability related conditions such as dementia, grief, intellectual impairment, and mental health.