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The patter of paws and the wagging of tails…so many of us enjoy the calming company of a pet-pal! To celebrate National Pet Day this Saturday (11 April), we’re sharing some of the ways pets bring happiness into the lives of our Afford community through engaging animal therapy and interactions.

Graeme’s Crawling Crab-Mate

Graeme is a fun loving and independent man who lives in Afford’s True Blue Group Home in NSW. One of his all-time goals was to get a pet of his own. So, he spoke with his Team Leader, Allison, and they worked out a plan to make Graeme’s dream a reality.

First, they turned to the internet to research. They looked up some of the different pets that Graeme might like, including cats, dogs, fish and more. During their research, they looked into what Graeme would need to do to care for each pet. They considered the size of the animal, the food it would eat, and how to keep it clean.

Staff printed out some information that they found online, so Graeme could make an informed decision about the pet he wanted. After all this research, he decided he wanted a pet hermit crab! So, along with support staff, Graeme headed out to Pet Barn to find his new pet-pal.

He picked up a little crawling crab with a beautiful shell. They also purchased a tank and all the supplies needed to keep the hermit crab happy and healthy. They bought a little bridge to put in the tank for the crab to climb. Graeme also painted some lovely decorations on stones to put in the tank for his new friend.

Throughout this process, Graeme was supported to make informed choices about his pet. Over the following weeks and months, he has learned to complete a daily care routine for his hermit crab. His confidence in his abilities has grown and he has excelled in being responsible for the wellbeing of his pet.

Bluebird Ladies Find Calm through Pet Therapy

Animal therapy is also incorporated into Bluebird Group Home activities. One resident, Lisa, has a great love of pets. So Afford staff organised for animal companions to come to visit Bluebird!

Paula from Dandy Dog Training brings her two King Charles Cavaliers, Lady Bell and Tinkerbell along each fortnight. Bluebird ladies, Sandra, Lisa, Julie and Angela can give the dogs a pat, brush their coats, learn how to feed them, and even cuddle them if they want.

Animals are proven stress relievers, so the pet therapy sessions at Bluebird are a lovely sensory experience for residents. Engaging with furry friends helps residents stay calm, ease any feelings of anxiety and relax. There’s also lots of fun to be had, because Lady Bell and Tinkerbell are so cute!

Animal Therapy at Cherrywood Friendship Farm

Of course, many years ago, Afford realised the power of pets and established its very own Animal Therapy Program at Cherrywood Friendship Farm in Llandilo. It’s the only program of its kind within the disability sector in NSW. It has supported thousands of people with disability to develop coping skills for a variety of social situations.

Afford offers animal therapy sessions at Cherrywood Friendship Farm in partnership with Bushbred Horse Assisted Learning Programs.

Participants can develop life skills through experimental interactions with horses, engage and manage their behaviour around horses and think of different ways to explore solutions for everyday life.

There are so many animals for participants to interact with as part of the Animal Therapy Program. There are chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, sheep and even a camel!

The Animal Therapy Program has been a great success since it was launched. The program is tailored for people of all abilities and has supported many people to develop communication, social and sensory skills. Its success has even been featured on national television programs and media outlets such as Channel 9 and Studio 10!