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Delta Society Australia Celebrates 20 Years


“Every day I thank Dog I am alive” says Robin Simpson, Chairperson of Delta Society Australia. In November 2017 the charity is celebrating 20 years of providing therapy dog services and positive reward-based dog training education in Australia. 

Delta Therapy Dog Team - Fiona Morton and her dog Ruby
"Delta has grown from two vets and a dog trainer operating from a Sydney kitchen in 1997 to 600 certified professional dog trainers and over 1,200 therapy dog volunteer teams across 15 branches all over Australia, visiting 850 care facilities every week. Not bad for a charity with only four full-time and two part time staff!

My own history with dogs goes back a little further. Like many rural lads, I’ve been surrounded by dogs since I was born. Admittedly my earliest memories are of sheepdogs like Jack (who also enthusiastically chased cars until he caught one) and Sandy the red Kelpie (who loved to bark at the full moon) – but on my eighth birthday I was given my own dog, a golden Cocker Spaniel called Lucky (who unfortunately wasn’t). Despite his early demise, for me Lucky began my love affair with dogs which has continued for more than fifty years.

Robin Simpson and his dog Rafa
Ever since, I have always had two dogs so that they keep each other company when I am at work, and partly so that if one becomes ill, the other is still there to help me with the profound grief that comes with the loss of a much-loved friend. 

There is an extraordinary kinship between dogs and people of all ages. My dogs have kept me grounded and sane through both the tough times and the triumphs of my life. It’s not just the companionship – an enthusiastic welcome at the front door when you get home can brighten the darkest day and make your heart soar; they provide unconditional love, unwavering loyalty, judge nobody and are always willing to listen to your problems or share your joys.

Delta Therapy dogs brighten up a workday at Sunsuper
But there is much more: recent research has shown that dog owners live longer, healthier lives (especially if they live alone) and have lower risk of heart attack, and that sleeping with a dog (on the bed, not in it!) helps some people to sleep better.

Children growing up with dogs are less likely to be obese or to develop asthma and other allergies. 
Dogs are literally keeping some of us alive!

Perhaps this explains why a 2016 survey of pet ownership by Animal Medicines Australia showed that 38.5% of Australian households have at least one dog, 68% of those households regard the dog as a member of the family and 66% of those dogs are allowed inside. Unlike other pets, the number of dogs increased since the previous survey in 2013. Dogs have become highly valued members of the family, with owners spending almost $2,000 per annum per dog on dog food, veterinary care, training and accessories – a total of $7 billion annually.
 Students at the Australian Catholic University (ACT) enjoy a Delta Society Paws The Pressure visit
This also explains why there is increasing demand for our Delta certified dog trainers on how to train dogs to be model citizens – inside the house and out. But it’s much more than puppy training or “sit”, “stay”, and “roll over”. Many owners (and their dogs!) derive great pleasure from training their dogs to work with them in the show ring, obedience trials, dog sports – or as Delta Therapy Dogs. A Delta certified trainer can help you with all of these things.

Given the pleasure and comfort that our dogs provide, it is easy to understand the trauma that elderly people must experience when they have to leave their familiar surroundings and enter aged care (often after the loss of a partner) and are forced to give up a beloved pet which might otherwise have helped them to cope. To make it worse, up to 40% of aged care residents never get a single visitor all year.

The Classroom Canines program improves children's confidence
That’s where Delta Therapy Dogs come in. Each week our volunteer therapy dog teams touch the lives of 20,000 people by visiting in aged care, hospitals, schools and prisons all over Australia.

Your dog does not have to be an obedience champion or a special breed to participate in this incredibly satisfying activity. Becoming a certified Delta Therapy Dog Team is mostly about having the right temperament and the ability to walk nicely on a lead.

Given all the positive mental and physical health outcomes from dog ownership, it is hard to understand why some governments and local councils are making it harder to own a dog. In the UK and many European countries dogs are welcome in hotels, shops, cafés and on public transport. Not so much in Australia! 

However, there are some positive signs. The Victorian government recently changed tenancy laws to prevent landlords and body corporates from discriminating against tenants on the basis of pet ownership. 

Pet friendly hotels are emerging, like Pier One in Sydney, and accommodation rental websites such as Stayz now have a tick box to help you find pet-friendly holiday rentals.

A 2016 University of Sydney survey found that 95% of Sydney dog owners are in favour of allowing dogs on public transport, and more than half of those said they would use public transport and do more activities with their hound if allowed. Given that there are approximately 2.4 million dog-related trips in a private car in Sydney every week, that seems like an enormous opportunity for reducing pollution and traffic congestion and making it easier for dog owners to get around.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

Well, Delta relies on the generosity of donors and volunteers to provide its life-changing services so consider making a donation to Delta this year as a gift for family and friends, or even as a special Secret Santa present, or get involved! 
Volunteer Genevieve Reid and her dog Byron

After 20 years of providing therapy dog services and training there is increasing demand now for Delta’s services, especially leading up to Christmas when people in hospitals and care facilities may feel particularly lonely. 

Knowing the joy of companionship that Delta therapy dogs and my own dogs bring, I want to share that joy, like all Delta volunteers, with with those not able to have a dog. Then every day, you too can say “Thank Dog I am alive!”

Robin Simpson, Chairperson Delta Society Australia, November 2017
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