Since my last update Nina has added plane and boat travel as new experiences and I am delighted to add she managed both extremely well.
We were privileged to join other couples and their assistance dogs at the International Dementia Conference held at the Sydney Hilton on the 16th and 17th June.
As a prerequisite for travel with Qantas Nina was required to do her Public Access test and this found me brushing up on her skills before John and I met her examiner in a busy public venue and we were definitely relieved when she made the grade. She has been known to bark at black dogs and seeing the examiner emerge from her car with a black assistance dog caused a moment of anxiety. Nina rose to the occasion and remained silent!
The Dementia Centre’s pre planning made sure our first flying experience was positive and we would not hesitate to travel with Nina again. On arrival in Sydney a staff member from Assistance Dogs met us at the airport and provided support for the duration of the conference including some opportunities for training refreshment. Staying in the CBD in a busy hotel and accompanying us at a conference attended by hundreds did not appear to phase Nina and we came away convinced that she can “go anywhere and do anything”. Well done Nina.
John, Nina and I attended all the plenary sessions and a full program of concurrent sessions and we found this most gratifying. There is so much negativity associated with and reported on dementia and to attend sessions focussing on enhancing the lives of people living with dementia was enlightening.
After a session reporting on the Scottish Dementia Dog and the Australian Dogs4Dementia programs John and I participated in a panel discussion about our experiences with Nina. As always conferences provide opportunities for informal discussions and I had some lovely chats after the session and Jeni Lennox from the Scottish program has suggested we keep in touch.
After the conference we spent a weekend in Sydney with our family and our small grandchildren delighted in having Nina stay and made her a soft cushion bed and wrapped her in a blanket where she seemed relieved to stay for hours. After being on her best behaviour in such a busy environment this was obviously just what she needed.
We very much appreciated the opportunity to attend the conference and catch up with the other couples and their dogs. A big thank you to those staff from the Dementia Centre and Assistance Dogs who made this possible.
Nina has accompanied us on short trips to Lorne, Sassafras in the Dandenongs and Philip Island. We have been welcomed at all holiday venues and afforded access to every facility including the penguin parade and whale watching on Phillip Island.
Nina did cause us momentary grief shortly after our arrival at our cottage in the Dandenongs. I had removed her coat and lead for toiletting and was momentarily distracted when she disappeared into a heavily vegetated area. After what seemed like forever, but what was in fact 10 minutes, she reappeared panting and with her tongue hanging out and the accommodation manager whose help we had sought was confident she had been on the trail of a wombat! In unfamiliar environments she now stays on her lead.
At home Nina continues to be a source of joy for both of us and life without her is now unimaginable. I have established routines for John around her care and he feeds, toilets, walks and secures her in the car when we go out. She associates him with these tasks and has strongly bonded with him.
John attends a weekly day care program which includes an afternoon walking session. Nina has become a firm favourite of the other participants and the director regards Nina’s attendance as a positive for everyone involved and John certainly enjoys sharing with others his very much loved Nina.
The recent use of the app “Find My Friends” has resulted in John taking Nina for a walk around the block several times per day. He always has his iphone with him and it is reassuring for me to be able to track his route. This is definitely working well for us and I would highly recommend it to other participants. John is enjoying this and will take Nina out whenever I suggest it.
Quiet moments at home with frequent uninvited ” visits ” and those doleful eyes staring at yours, or curling up on top of your feet are the best stress relievers imaginable. Our family members are besotted with her, she is a celebrity in the neighbourhood and is regularly praised for her “good ” behaviour in local cafes and restaurants.
Nina has given us more than we could ever have imagined when we embarked on this journey. Thank you to everyone involved.
The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.