THE latest chapter of the Delta Purina Pet Partners' Program was launched at Bega's Hillgrove House Aged Care Facility by the Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor, Tony Allen, on Tuesday, July 25.
Mr Sandy Macqueen from Candelo recently took his Labrador Retriever, Cindy, to Sydney to be temperament tested as a candidate for the program.
Sandy has spent the last 18-months training and preparing Cindy for the program.
Cindy passed the stringent tests that Delta uses to assess dogs for the program and Sandy returned the following week to attend a full day of volunteer training in preparation for Aged Care facility visiting.
They are now fully accredited as a 'team' in the program.
Pet Partners visit children's hospitals and adult hospitals, nursing homes, mental health units, rehabilitation units and hospices.
Much of the work to date has involved general activity and play therapy but the teams are increasingly working with rehabilitation specialists, psychologists and occupational therapists on a one-on-one basis with patients in treatment programs.
There are now over 600 volunteers visiting some 300 facilities.
Sandy and Cindy are the first accredited team south of Nowra to the border.
Sandy has been so impressed with the program that he not only offered the Delta service to Hillgrove House and Casuarina Hostel but is determined to do all he can to establish an outreach of the program in both the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla shires.
The Bega Chamber of Commerce has agreed to sponsor Sandy and Cindy and this is a very significant level of support that is critical to growing the program.
Delta's volunteers are people and pet dogs from ordinary households but according to the society's general manager, Dr John Cornwall, "they are doing extraordinary work".
Delta Society Australia is a national non-profit organisation with a mission "to promote and facilitate positive interaction between people and companion animals"'.
It is classified as a public benevolent institution by the Australian Taxation Office and all donations to the society over $2 are tax deductible.
It costs the society more than $700 per year to recruit each volunteer, assess his or her dog, train them to Delta's high professional standards and provide ongoing support and administration requirements, many of which are required under various laws.
Sandy is available to talk to groups including service clubs to promote the benefits of the program and to encourage more people to consider training their own dog.
Demand for Delta's program outstrips supply and it can only expand at the rate of available accredited teams.
Anyone interested in joining the program, either as a Pet Partner team or as a friend of Delta should contact Sandy Macqueen on (02) 6493 2990 or 0408 979 759.
Further information on the Delta Society Pet Partner Program can be found on www.deltasocietyaustralia.com.au or by telephone on 02 9231 3218.