Sharing the canine love

Diversional therapist Tania Peck gives Bethlehem Views resident Ron Cumming an opportunity to pat Molly the Maltese poodle cross during a visit from the Tauranga SPCA dog squad.

She’s the social butterfly - the one who visits all the regulars for a scratch under the chin or a rub of the tummy.

Holly the Saint Bernard is the canine leader of the Tauranga SPCA’s dog squad, making monthly visits to local retirement homes to bring a smile to their elderly residents’ faces.

She is joined by Molly, the Maltese poodle cross, Cracker the pug and Diesel the Staffordshire bull terrier. A dog for every taste.

Bethlehem Views retirement home activities coordinator Kathy McDonald says the dog squad visits are “extremely rewarding” for residents.

“They get a lot out of it,” she says. “You see their faces light up when the dogs come in.”

Diversional therapist Tania Peck says the visits are particularly valuable for residents with dementia.

“It provokes reminiscing of situations when they owned pets themselves, and gives them a way to express love.”

As well as providing comfort and enjoyment, it is believed that dogs and other animals help people recover or better cope with health problems such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders.

The Tauranga SPCA dog squad is out and about three times a week, visiting around 12 retirement homes on a monthly cycle.

Holly’s owner, June Lawson, coordinates the group and has been volunteering with the squad since retiring nine years ago.

The volunteers are mostly retired like June, and Cracker and Molly are her neighbours’ dogs that she ‘borrows’ for the visits.

“We do whatever the rest homes want us to do, whether that’s visiting with a group in the lounge or taking the dogs to residents’ rooms,” says June.

“They like to pat the dogs, and some like having the small dogs, like Molly, sit on their lap. It’s very rewarding to see the enjoyment the residents get from it. A lot of people in rest homes in Tauranga retired from a farm and they miss their animals.”

If anyone is interested in joining the dog squad, contact Hannah Cobb at the Tauranga SPCA on: 07 578 0245 or: