Meet Rolf and Vyrna, a spirited couple from inner-Melbourne who will be one of the first to receive one of our assistance dogs, due to arrive in mid-October.
Rolf is a physically fit and healthy man who has just turned 79. His wife Vyrna says she can’t remember the last time Rolf was ill with even as much as a cold. He has run marathons and is a keen bushwalker. Rolf looks forward to continuing this passion with daily dog walks. To keep up his general health; and of course walking with a dog is much more fun than walking alone.
Rolf is no stranger to service dogs, and him being the first Australian to receive a dementia assistance dog will actually be a natural continuation of much of the work to which he has dedicated his life. He was an Associate Professor at Melbourne University, lecturing and researching for some decades in areas of Animal Breeding, Genetics, and Animal Behaviour in the School of Agriculture and Forestry. He was one of several experts who, back in the 1980’s, successfully put the case for lifting the ban, imposed in the 1930’s, on the importation of German Shepherds, dogs which are often chosen for service with police and customs officials. One of his PhD students conducted studies on the suitability of different breeds to work as guide dogs for the blind, and another worked on the selection and breeding of drug detector dogs. Both these studies led to improved insights into service dogs and moved the industry forward.
Rolf now finds it difficult to remember this work, but he still has an inherent empathy with dogs. He has always been drawn to dogs, displaying great affection for them, and they respond to him. Given that he has always been an advocate for dogs, it is wonderful that an assistance dog can now support him.
Vyrna openly shares her concern that Rolf has given up reading books because he has difficulty following a plot or a discussion; he looks through the newspaper, but doesn’t remember anything he’s read; he also doesn’t enjoy TV any more – Vyrna says that they look at the news, but not much else. Rolf still enjoys music, but doesn’t usually have the initiative to put on the radio or a CD. In short, Vyrna worries that Rolf has lost the capacity to fill his days with stimulating pursuits. She believes that the companionship of a dog would stimulate his mind, give him a sense of purpose, and boost his overall happiness enormously; he would have another being to love and care for, to talk to, to walk and groom. And to pick up poo for!
Finally, Rolf and Vyrna say that they have always enjoyed dogs together and the addition of a suitable dog into their family would be a great positive for both of them. It would take some of the pressure off Vyrna to be all things for Rolf – he would have another being to focus on, with all the comfort, interest, pride and responsibility that would bring.
(if you would like to continue to follow the story of Rolf and Vyrna as they welcome their dog into their home, be sure to keep checking back here for when they start to post in mid October).