FOUR-LEGGED CHARMERS: Community support dogs are bringing smiles to people's faces.
FOUR-LEGGED CHARMERS: Community support dogs are bringing smiles to people's faces. Contributed

Furry friends making people smile

WHEN you arrive home after being out, the sound of paws running towards you and the happy look on your dog's face is a sight that never gets old.

Can you imagine being in hospital, an aged care facility or mental health unit where dogs aren't the usual resident?

This is what happened to Kyra Ensbey, dog trainer, behaviourist and owner of Bright Bessy Dog Training.

After a stint in hospital, all she wanted to do was see her dog.

On leaving, she decided to do something about it with her own dog Chilli.

For the past three years, Kyra and Chilli have been visiting Baringa Hospital and the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, bringing smiles to patients' and workers' faces.

"Word got out, I started getting requests from places and couldn't keep up with the demand,” Kyra said.

Being more than one woman and her dog could handle, Kyra decided to start a training course for other dogs and owners in the community so they could become involved in the program.

Community support dogs is a six-month training course where dogs learn obedience, desensitisation and go into the field to start practical experience.

"The dog's role is to put a smile on people's faces by allowing them a cuddle or encourage conversations about their pets both past and present.

"There are many touching stories to be told about the effect of the dogs, such as making an agitated child calm or making a suffering person smile.”

Now serving 14 places from mental health units and aged care facilities to palliative care units and other services, five new dogs have recently graduated the training program and another eight have enrolled in a new course.

"The reason it's called community support dogs is because there are three parts to it,” Kyra said.

"The first is the people who own the dogs come from the community and train their dogs with me, all in a voluntary capacity.

"The other part of the community work is us going and seeing anyone in the community that needs cheering up or some help, and the third part is that we ask businesses and organisations from the community to sponsor the dog training.

"The reason I've done this is so everyone has a sense of ownership over this program, but also because the volunteers sometimes see things you wouldn't normally see and it can be very taxing emotionally.

"We invite businesses to play an integral role in the program. In order to ensure the organisations such as hospitals and counselling services requesting dog visits can be provided, dogs need training.”

Businesses, groups and individuals are able to sponsor a dog to go through the course.

For more information on the program or to get involved, visit Bright Bessy Dog Training or phone Kyra on 0402 795 716.