Nina has been with us for almost 4 months and our sense of good fortune in being part of the research project has not diminished.
Before I write about what we have been doing with Nina I will address some of the questions we are asked as we get out and about with her and also interact with our friends and acquaintances.
What does she actually do for John?
The reality is that since I am with John almost all of the time she is not required to assist with activities of daily living. What she does provide is unconditional love and support starting first thing in the morning when she runs to greet him as he comes out of the bedroom and continuing throughout the day when she chooses to curl up by his feet, keep him company in the garden, walk sedately by his side when we are out and wait patiently in a coffee shop or on a garden bench while I pick up some shopping.
This very special bond with Nina has been re enforced by my setting up simple routines and cues for John to be responsible for feeding, grooming and playing with her.
We are impatiently waiting for our local park to reopen after the makeover when we will build a daily visit into our schedule. There are lovely shaded areas, attractive garden beds and plentiful seating and I know this will be a great amenity for the 3 of us. Nina always settles very close to John and I am sure this offers him security and pleasure and I envisage he will stay for short periods while I go further afield.
There should be a corollary to the first question:
What does she actually do for you ?
I enjoy having her living with us and she brings great joy to my life. Her endearing, affectionate and gentle nature is evident throughout the day as she engages with both of us and we focus on this pleasure and talk about her often.
Before John awakens I enjoy a brisk walk with Nina and find this a very satisfactory way to start the day.
I feel comfortable leaving John and Nina for a short time in a café or seated outdoors knowing he feels entirely at ease with her and this frees me to do quick errands.
My weekly supermarket shopping has been streamlined as John and Nina now sit on a bench in the store while I whizz around with the trolley….much quicker than when we did it in tandem.
Another question is:
How is she different from an ordinary pet?
To start with when she was placed with us she was 20-months-old and had been in training for most of her life. The first year was spent with a host family and then she started an intensive residential training period. Even though I had researched as much as I could to ascertain what we might expect from such a dog I really did not appreciate the many positive things she could bring to our lives.
Nina’s behaviour as a domestic Assistance Dog is exemplary. She toilets on demand, sleeps outside our door on her bed and lives inside our house with no disruption to us at all. I read this to John and he said “she is a much loved member of our family”
She continues to shed copious amounts of hair but we forgive her!
She can access public transport, including plane travel, public places and in fact she can go anywhere apart from a sterile area in a hospital and food preparation areas eg. a restaurant kitchen. For us, knowing she is licensed and authorised to accompany us almost anywhere makes a huge difference to our lives.
We have had no problem with access anywhere and she has been welcomed in many local cafes and restaurants. As we squeezed into a busy café over the holiday period I noticed a customer looking at her and I checked if he was ok with her closeness.
“She can sit on my knee if she likes” was his heartwarming response.
The generally warm and interested reaction from people to Nina’s presence with us is gratifying. I have become more skilled in deflecting some unwanted interactions with people and other dogs!
Without the Dogs 4 Dementia program we would not have a dog in our lives even though it was something we wanted and our family recommended. Our much loved, long lived labrador had been a very naughty, chewey puppy and I could not even contemplate taking that on again.
I do want to further emphasise the care taken by Alberto from Assistance Dogs Australia in perfectly matching Nina to John’s needs and then providing the necessary in home training which is continuing on a follow up basis. It is much appreciated.
HammondCare personnel including Tammy, Richard, Sue and Deb have monitored and supported us on our journey with Nina and for that we are grateful.
I know Nina’s host family, Ann and Kevon, maintain a keen interest in her progress and access this site and we thank them for the superb job they so obviously did with her.
The holiday period has been a very busy family time for us and I was concerned that such a change to our routine may have been problematical for Nina. Our small grandchildren were staying with us and our house was a hive of activity. We have 4 adult children and there was much coming and going.
We are now back into a more regular routine and Nina’s behaviour is, fortunately, as good as ever.
We are continuing with all the activities I wrote about last time, and more, and I have booked 2 short stay holidays in country Victoria and Nina will join us so that will be something to report on next time. I don’t expect any difficulties as Nina travels well in the car.
Nina had her 2nd Birthday on the 1st of February and so entwined is she in the lives of our family that we had Facetime with the Sydney grandchildren and visits from various members of our Melbourne family all for the birthday girl.
Well done Nina and all you’ve achieved in under 4 months.
The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.