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www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Without warning there is a stir in
the hospital café and the sound of
excited people. A lady dressed in
a bright red shirt appears, leading a small
wiry haired dog wearing an equally bright
red bandanna collar. People stop to give the
dog a pat, and secondly, say hello to the
lady guiding him. The whole area brightens
palpably, and everyone looks toward the duo.
Anne and Spike have arrived at Maitland
Hospital for their Delta Therapy Dog outing.
Anne Cheetham is a committed volunteer,
and Spike is Anne's devoted eight year old
cross Jack Russell/Foxy. Together, this team
has undertaken the valuable and enriching
mission of visiting Maitland Hospital for
Spike was acquired unexpectedly. Anne
had seen a stray wandering near the local
vegetable stall. "The owners were searching
for someone to look after him." Anne
adopted Spike when he was three.
Anne, a parishioner at Mallabula, retired
from teaching in 2008 and soon heard
about the Delta Therapy Dog program on
2NURFM. Immediately she felt Spike would
be ideal. It took a year for his personality
to be assessed and for Anne to undergo
appraisals. Spike is now eight and is
assessed each year, with Anne reviewed
every two years.
The Delta Therapy Dogs Program has
now been operating in the Hunter region
for twelve years. Delta is a not-for-profit
organisation, with 75 volunteer teams in
the Hunter region, but more are desperately
needed. They are constantly on the lookout
for new helpers, human and canine!
The Delta Program evaluators appoint a
facility for the team to visit. Anne says,
"When Spike was assessed, they felt he was
good with children." Teams visit hospitals
and aged care facilities, and help with
reading programs in schools and libraries.
When asked if Spike gets animated when he
dons the bandanna, Anne responded, "No,
he gets more excited when I change into the
red shirt; it has to be the last thing I put on!"
Watching Spike weave his magic with both
patients and staff at Maitland Hospital
was a joy; Spike knew the way through the
maze of corridors and went directly to the
Rehabilitation Unit. An elderly gentleman on
the verandah was quick to welcome Spike,
and vice versa! Spike hopped up on his hind
legs and gently laid his front paws on the
man's lap. His little tail madly leapt from
side to side, and this elderly man held a
broad grin as he patted and spoke to Spike;
it was as if they had known each other
Next stop was the Paediatric Unit, once
again with Spike leading the way. As we
passed people in the corridors, everyone
spoke to Spike and their grin was instant.
He became more excited as we walked
closer to the children's ward and his pace
quickened. Once in the unit the staff
enthusiastically welcomed Anne and Spike,
obviously thrilled to see the team again.
There was a rattle of paper, and Spike
literally danced on his rear legs, ready for
his small reward, a biscuit.
A toddler was whimpering as his parents
paced the corridor to settle him. Suddenly
the little fellow saw Spike, his face lit up
and he struggled to be put on the floor
to play with him. His pain was forgotten
while he fed the biscuit to Spike, the
All the children were given the opportunity
to spend time with Spike, their moods
lifting as he entered each room. A young
lad played quietly in bed with his Lego; he
was cheered when Anne lifted Spike to the
bed. He told Anne he had a dog at home too.
Anne chatted with him while he patted Spike.
In the baby's room, a Mum was alone with
her tiny ill child, and this time Spike buoyed
Spike remained incredibly placid, relaxed
and unruffled the entire time. He took the
attention in his stride as children and adults
alike stroked and brushed his hair, tousled
his ears and looked into his wise, brown
eyes. Absolutely everyone loved Spike.
Anne and Spike's aim in visiting the hospital
is to create a more contented, therapeutic
and good-humoured atmosphere for
patients, staff and visitors. They accomplish
this brilliantly. Anne says, "I get so much
pleasure from it. It makes me feel happier
when people see and talk to Spike." In this
Year of Grace, for the people they assist,
Spike and Anne are grace itself.
To volunteer for Delta Therapy Dogs,
contact Hunter Co-ordinator Pam Withers
P 4943 1110
Delta dog Spike and Anne Cheetham.
By TRISH BOGAN
Catholic Schools Week
See page 5
Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton on forgiveness
See page 15
Maddison meets PM Julia
See page 7
Fair go for refugees
See page 14
June 2012 | No.114
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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