Kyra Ensbey’s Support Dogs are being missed by patients and staff at Coffs Harbour Health Campus during the COVID pandemic

Sarah Bentley and Lady. Photo: supplied by CHHC.


SOMETIMES it’s the simple things that make a difference when we need a boost.

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Even if it’s only the sharing of eye contact with a non-judgemental canine, or just touching its soft coat.

Kyra Ensbey of Bright Bessy Dog Training recognised the specific benefits of pet therapy six years ago when she designed and instigated the Community Support Dog Program.

For the program, volunteers bring their own pet dogs into several wards of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus (CHHC) as well as other facilities including schools and respite centres, where they interact with both children and adults.

Volunteers’ dogs undertake an intensive six month training program which is sponsored by organisations and the facilities that are visited.

CHHC General Manager Dr Theresa Beswick said, “The program has become an invaluable asset to the health campus with the dogs and their owners loved and appreciated by staff, patients and visitors.”

“Although CHHC’s popular Community Support Dog program is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to the day when we can welcome back our lovable pooches and their volunteer handlers.”

“It is a common sight to see patients give the dogs a hug which often results in smiles, sometimes tears, and a sharing of affection which fosters a sense of connectedness and reduces loneliness.”

“The support dogs have an uncanny ability to pick up on the mood of patients and improve their hospital experience,” Dr Beswick said.

Kyra Ensbey told News Of The Area, “The kids in children’s ward love to have a cuddle with the dogs, who are trained to curl up next to them.”

“The children can even read them a book, as they are all trained ‘story dogs’.

“Some of the patients in the oncology ward schedule their appointments around the days the dogs come in.

“The Community Support Dogs’ reputation of being ‘smile makers’ is evident in every place that they visit,” Kyra said.

“It’s such a boost for everyone’s mental health, including for the volunteers.”




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