A two-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever cross, named Sahara has joined the Willochra Home in Crystal Brook as a permanent service dog.
Sahara under went 16 weeks of guide dog training, but her trainers began to realise that becoming a guide dog was not her calling.
Her temperament was sweet and sensitive and she visibly showed that she did not like the pressure of the job, so instead, it was decided she would become a therapy dog.
As Sahara was transitioning from her training to becoming a therapy dog, Pam Sharnock the general manager at the Willochra Home had submitted an application for a therapy dog and been told the process could take six months to two years.
On Tuesday July 17, Pam received the call that Sahara would be moving in and on Thursday July 26, she had her first day with the residents of the Crystal Brook aged care home.
General manager, Pam Charnock had envisaged having a pet for her residents but did not want a puppy nor a cat and believed that going down the guide dog pathway would be perfect, as the dogs are calm and well trained.
“We have always had pets around us and pet therapy is one of those things, particularly in aged care, that there is a lot of research around on the comforting and calming influence they can have on aged care residents”, Pam said.
“I knew the training that the dogs go through and getting one of those dogs, whether they were retired or not, they would be well trained, manage with people well and have beautiful natures and personalities.”
Sahara will be permanently placed at the home and will be free to wander about the three fenced areas and inside areas.
With the news that a dog was on the way, some residents were hesitant, especially those coming from farm backgrounds where dogs are working animals, not pets. But Pam knows they will warm to her soon.
“I am hoping that Sahara can be a softening side to some of our residents who are abrasive. It will be a calming influence, we all need some doggie love and a bit of a cuddle”, Pam said.
Staff of the home were very excited to find out Sahara would be joining the team and when Pam conducted some feedback on the idea, she did not receive one negative response.
Sarah Crawford, therapy dog officer at Guide Dogs SA said to her team it was evident that she would be better placed in an aged care home than with a person with a vision impairment.
“She did not warm to the training. She wanted to do it because she is a very willing dog and eager to please, but when it comes down to it, the pressure of the job was a bit to much for her”, Sarah said.
“We just did not see a lot of consistency. She is very soft, sweet and sensitive and she just never gave a really good consistent result that we could say yep we can give her to someone.”
“She knows the commands, she knows what to do, but she did not enjoy it very much.”