Pet Life Magazine, New Zealand Pet Life Magazine Issue 4 Spring 2017 - Page 6
Sophie, oakie &
- great therapy
Forget about dogs
performing tricks, Sophie,
Oakie and Thumpa can
do magic! The three
Golden Retrievers owned
by Ann Evans are Canine
Friends Pet Therapy dogs,
and make regular visits to
hospital patients and residents of
hospices and rest homes.
Ann, who is the president of Canine
Friends Pet Therapy, lives south of Taihape and travels as far
as Whanganui and Feilding in order for her dogs to weave their
spell on those in care, including the elderly and people with
dementia or mental health problems.
The dogs even charm hundreds and hundreds of stressed-out
Massey University students during study break, twice a year.
“As soon as they start patting the dog and talking to you their faces
light up and it’s magic, really,” says Ann, who’s been involved with
the Pet Therapy group for nearly 10 years with Sophie, her oldest
The trio puts smiles on faces of everyone they visit, making them
feel alive and happy. Even the dementia patients remember them –
but never her, Ann laughs.
And how do they perform their magic? Simply by laying a big furry
head in the lap of someone in need, gazing up into their eyes with
big brown eyes and allowing them to stroke their silky ears and
Canine Friends Pet Therapy started 27 years ago and now has 486
human members who collectively have about 600 dogs nationwide
that they share with people in care.
Ann says dogs give people a reason to communicate, which helps
ease feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially for rest home
residents confined to bed or wheelchairs.
With the dementia patients that Ann sees with her dogs, she can
ask them if they had pets, what pets did they have, and then with
every visit take the conversation a little further. Sophie, Oakie and
Thumpa help stimulate their minds and memories.
Ann says rest homes have told her that the dogs’ visits are like
giving residents “happiness pills”.
And it’s a win-win situation – Sophie, Oakie and Thumpa love being
patted and scratched and talked to with affection and interest.
All Canine Friends are matched with those they visit.
“Not every dog can deal with mental health or dementia
patients,” says Ann.
But nobody fazes her lot.
“My dogs are bomb proof, they love cuddles and pats and just
The visits by Canine Friends are one-on-one – one dog per
It’s more beneficial to focus on one situation and what is
happening, says Ann, then have to worry about what is going on
with a pack of dogs and people.
She takes Sophie, aged 11, the most, but Oakie, 9, “is very
good, very cuddly, very gentle”.
Thumpa, 6, who has recently started on visits, charmed his very
first patient by walking straight into her room and putting his
head on her knee.
They all want to go,
laughs Ann, and it
can take some time
around New Zealand
to get the right dog
in the car on visit
day, which is every