Skip is part of Australia’s first assistance dog program to help people living with dementia and their families. He recently graduated from the program at a ceremony for assistance dogs in Sydney.
It is just one month since Jiyu joined us, and I will never forget the sight of Alberto (from Assistance Dogs Australia) at the open front door, smiling broadly as he introduced the most beautiful dog I felt I had ever seen, a gorgeous black Labrador! It was truly love at first sight – and we only hoped that we could be accepted as owners of this lovely boy. Since then, we have had a roller-coaster ride with intensive training under the expert tutelage of Assistance Dogs Australia staff, much walking, investigating new surrounds together, getting to know each other.
We love his typical morning greeting, rubbing his head against us and enjoying a rub in return. While we could take this to be a pure display of affection, we also recognise the unspoken message: ‘time for breakfast’. By nature, Jiyu is calm, soft, well-mannered, affectionate, accepting (of our occasional clumsiness), curious and obedient.
He has accompanied us to hospital, where he lay next to the Rolf’s recliner while Rolf received a routine infusion. He has joined a group of ex-students at 50-year reunion at Melbourne Uni, untroubled by the BBQ’d meat being consumed on all sides. And he has shared a quiet moment of trust at home with Rolf, with his chin resting on Rolf’s hands and eyes locked.
Although Rolf has a major problem delivering words of command, Jiyu is developing an understanding of Rolf’s unspoken intention, delivered mainly by gestures, body language. Rolf summed his feelings up the other day, with a spontaneous: ‘This dog is MARVELOUS!! He is just BEAUTIFUL’. Rolf is one happy man, which is what this is all about. And I share that, in spades!
Vyrna and Rolf
The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.