News & Events

The healing power of Buddy

July 19, 2021

Buddy the greyhound is on a mission.

He’s arrived at Liscombe House with his owner, Helena, for an important job: to be on the lookout for familiar and new faces.

Buddy is a regular visitor to Liscombe House as part of the Lort Smith Pet Therapy Program. The program has been running for more than 30 years. Volunteers, like Helena, take their specially assessed dogs to hospitals, justice settings and residential care services across Melbourne, to provide comfort and relief to people experiencing illness, adversity, loneliness and the long-term impacts of trauma.

Buddy is among several dogs that come into Liscombe House as part of its pet therapy program. Cats also come to the aged care home through the Lost Cats and Dogs Home. Other regular animal visitors include horses, chicks and a robot cat.

This special greyhound came into Helena’s life several years ago after she and her family learned about the Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) on the news.

The GAP was having an adoption day at the Meadows in Broadmeadows and so she and her family turned up and adopted him.

“We already had a houseful of dogs and I did not think we could take one more in. I was wrong,” Helena said.

“Buddy had rickets, he was never going to be a racing dog,” she said.

Buddy and Helena began volunteering with the pet therapy program in 2008.

Liscombe House is the third Residential care she has volunteered in, and it is the most enjoyable experience to date. Much of this is due to the respect each volunteer is treated with and the fact that she is accompanied each visit by Adrian, one of the lifestyle team members.

“That personal touch is so important because Adrian knows which resident could do with the chance to be still with Buddy, or to stroke and to talk to him,” Helena said.

One of her most recent highlights was when Buddy met resident Jack, a man who rarely talked. The moment Jack saw Buddy, he began stroking him and saying good dog.’

It was a breakthrough for Jack, and a profoundly moving experience for me.”

This example mirrors international research findings which show that interacting with visiting dogs and volunteers can reduce stress and anxiety in residents, alleviate pain and suffering, reduce loneliness, improve motivation for faster recovery and lead to improvements in behaviour, confidence, social skills, mental health and general wellbeing.

For Helena, the Jack experience highlights the benefits of the human-animal bond and the driving reason for her becoming a volunteer.

“I am not really good at small talk but when I have Buddy by my side, it is easy to engage in a conversation and really that is what it is all about,” she said.

Helena was unable to visit Liscombe House for most of 2020 and the current lockdown has also been challenging. She misses the fortnightly visits and is looking forward to getting back to Liscombe House. She and Buddy have been seeing about 31 different residents each month, and she is enjoying every moment of it.

Leith Park is a wonderful place for single older women because of the community and the age-friendly accommodation. I don’t think I have ever felt as safe as I have here.

Enquire today about securing a position at one of Melbourne's longest established and highly reputable independent living estates.

Enquire Now