Paw-some visitors brighten residents’ days at Riverside Gardens

Kerrie Smith and Choco outside Riverside Gardens Aged Care facility.

RESIDENTS at Riverside Gardens Aged Care have been lucky enough to have some regular paw-some visitors.

Choco, a Lab Kelpie and his lovely owner, Nicki Smith, who is a volunteer affiliated with Paws Pet Therapy, are visiting residents fortnightly.

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“I was looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the community, now my children are a bit older, when I saw a book on pet therapy on my daughter’s shelf and thought it would be a perfect fit for me – and Choco too,” Ms Smith said.

The demand for Paws Pet Therapy services has exploded since COVID-19.

They are a small organisation, whose people, and pooches, are all volunteers that generously give up their time to help people with a range of needs – from loneliness, illness to assisting children with reading.

Paws Pet Therapy founder and CEO Sharon Stewart said, “We have a fantastic team of over 100 volunteers, from Goulburn to the Blue Mountains, Sydney to the South Coast, who work hard and have one common goal – to help dogs make people happy.”

Choco, a four-year-old Lab Kelpie, travelled all the way to Paws Pet Therapy headquarters in the Southern Highlands to get special training and be assessed.

“Pets can be assessed online but I wanted to make sure Choco was fully trained and ready.

“He did lots of exercises, including a simulated hospital room with a patient, and I was so proud when he passed and got his certificate,” said Ms Smith.

Choco started at Riverside Gardens in February and engages with residents beautifully.

He adjusts his energy levels to suit the person he’s with and is very gentle with them.

“Choco is proving to be a big hit among the residents,” said Kerrie Cue, Recreational Activities Officer at Riverside Gardens.

“He brightens up so many people’s day – staff included!”

Ms Smith said her and her canine sidekick are enjoying the experience.

“So many people love their dogs, and really like it when others love their dogs too – Paws Pet Therapy is really a wonderful way to do something for your community and feel good too.

“We’re really enjoying the experience of visiting people at Riverside Gardens and making their days brighter,” Ms Smith said.

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