Animal therapy at Gloucester's Hillcrest Nursing Home

Val Potts, Doris Ashby, June Harris and Rita Berry have no intention of giving up the puppies any time soon. Photo Anne Keen
Val Potts, Doris Ashby, June Harris and Rita Berry have no intention of giving up the puppies any time soon. Photo Anne Keen

What could be cuter than snuggling up with a five week old French Bulldog?

For these Hillcrest residents, it’s puppy love.

“It makes a world of difference,” June Harris said. “Having something you can pat and snuggle up to.”

June is trying to convince the staff at Gloucester’s Hillcrest Nursing Home they need to keep one of the six puppies that have been visiting them recently.

She has it all worked out, and is even willing to keep it in her room.

One of the biggest joys for June is the way her sister and fellow resident, Rita Berry finds the puppy time so soothing.

Rita enjoys spending time snuggling up with the black beauties and finds it very calming.

According to Hillcrest’s diversional therapist Kellie Young, time with animals makes a big difference for dementia residents.

“It stops wandering behaviours,” Kellie said. 

It also brought a smile to the face of one resident who hadn’t smile in a long time. “It makes it a happier place.” Kellie said.

Kellie is in charge of organising all the “nice things” the residents get to do, including day excursions to Port Macquarie for lunch and high tea for Melbourne Cup.

The puppies are the litter from Kellie’s Blue French bulldog, Sadie who comes by for a regular hour long visit. While Sadie is resting after her caesarean, her four boys and two girls have taken her place.

For resident Doris Ashby, who had a dog of her own, the cuddle time with the puppies is “absolutely beautiful.”

“I nursed their mother when she was a baby,” she smiled. “And now I’m nursing her son.”

It’s all about bringing the outside world inside and making the residents’ time in the nursing home as enjoyable as possible. Last week, they got to cuddle baby goats.

During this visit, you couldn’t wipe the smile off of resident, Val Potts face as she cuddled a sleeping puppy. “I love little things,” Val said. 

Once the puppies are old enough they will move onto their new homes and Sadie will return to keep the smile on the ladies’ faces.