To mark #InternationalDogDay, we’re sharing the inspiring story of Sandy the Community Dog and her journey with her sidekick Natashya, Community Dog Handler.The Dementia Community Dog Project forms part of Dementia Dog – a charitable collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good that explores different ways trained dogs can help people live well with dementia.
Community Dog Sessions are weekly person-centred sessions with our Pawsome Community Dog Handler and Community Dog teams that work on helping a referred individual achieve their personal goals. These sessions through Animal Assisted Interventions empower and build confidence in a joyous manner.
Natashya explains the process in seeing the positive transformation the weekly person-centred sessions have had upon people living with dementia and recalls one particular successful outcome:
“People are referred with an overall goal to achieve. The referred individual came to us with the overall goal in handling and walking a dog outdoors with confidence in anticipation of receiving an assistance dog or pet dog. The respective gentleman has dementia and is being supported by his wife.
"In order to achieve this goal we started with bond building with the gentleman and Sandy through food puzzle toys and retrieve games. The next stage was introducing dual lead walking initially around the streets by the home, then building confidence to walk with the community dog to the park and a lovely country route to incorporate off lead exercise and play with Sandy. In the next stage we ventured into sessions with Sandy visiting garden centres and cafes. In bad weather we played games that included the referred person picking a card from a bag and writing on it was a cue, giving Sandy an instruction. When Sandy offered the behaviour, she received a treat reward. There were a couple of cards that just referred to treat on the bag, which we joked Sandy must have sneaked in.
"The referred gentleman and his wife loved Sandy's companionship. It enabled them both to have a weekly activity to look forward to. The intervention helped them to make an informed decision and to welcome a pet dog into their family. The sessions gave the couple additional confidence in handling a dog in indoor public spaces.
The gentleman commented about his positive experience with Sandy:
"It’s been a lovely time bringing positivity. Only issue is Sandy had to leave. Thank you very much. Sad it's come to an end. We appreciate all the dementia dog team and what they have accomplished to date. Stress levels were quite high post diagnosis, so this experience has helped to reduce that and ensure I am living well with dementia.
Natashya also commented about the positive impact Sandy had on the couple:
“It was a privilege to work with the couple. The sessions were relaxed, always involved friendly chatting and plenty of laughter. Seeing the relationship and bond between the referred person and Sandy grow and develop was such a wonderful thing to be a part of."
A huge thanks to Nataysha and Sandy, Dementia Dog and Dogs For Good for all the incredible work in ensuring people can live well with dementia. Want to know more about community dogs? Find out more here.