As an experienced therapist Rachel Penn felt sure she had something special when she adopted Luna the greyhound.
She thought that Luna’s loving and calm nature just might bring some joy into the lives of people who need it the most, including hospital patients and elderly people in residential care.
“Luna has a lovely personality, she will come up to you and rest her head against you. She loves to be loved and I thought it would be nice to share that.”
Rachel sought out Delta Therapy Dogs, which provides its pet therapy services in many parts of Australia, including Geelong where Rachel lives. Rachel and Luna have now completed Delta’s orientation program and this week set off on their first solo assignment at a local nursing home where Luna’s presence prompted conversations and good memories.
“They loved her. There were people saying they used to have a greyhound, or their father raced greyhounds. Some people talked about dogs they had at home but had to give up when they moved there.” Others were happy to quietly pat Luna.
“Luna is really soft and silky, it is a real sensory experience for them when they are patting her.” Rachel sat and listened to their stories.
As part of Delta’s orientation program, Luna was temperament tested to see how she would respond to noisy environments and strangers, and Rachel went through an information session.
They are now volunteering one hour each week which will gradually increase depending on Rachel’s work commitments and Luna’s own capacity. Delta and Rachel both emphasise the need to avoid pressuring the dogs with too many assignments, too many people. Rachel is hoping to eventually take Luna into schools, hospitals and prisons.
Rachel had an advantage when she went to GAP’s kennels to adopt Luna – she already knew Luna and her previous owner, and she knew he intended to send her to GAP to be re-homed so she kept an eagle-eye on GAP’s adoption website for the gentle dog with the sweet nature.
Rachel’s experience as a therapist includes working with people with drug and alcohol addiction, trauma survivors and prison inmates. She is a great believer in using therapy to enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Now she has a four-legged sidekick to help her.