PET SUPPORT: Pets for Life client Val with Zeva.
PET SUPPORT: Pets for Life client Val with Zeva.

Pets for Life a free support for friends in need

WHEN a friendly face will make all the difference at those times when you feel you can't cope with looking after your pet, the free Pets For Life service is on hand.

Service coordinator Mark Wischnat says that through his job he has gained a new appreciation of how important pets are to older Australians. "I'm not much of a small dog person, but I can really understand now how important pets are to people's lives," he said.

"They genuinely are part of the family and for a lot of people, pets are a really important part of their life.

"Being able to give everyone the opportunity to have their life fulfilled and happy and active for as long as possible, I think that there is something really strong about that."

Pets For Life has been on the Coast for about 11 years and is supported by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

The free service supports empathetic, educated volunteers who visit seniors to help them with the wellbeing of their pet.

Each volunteer is given training in dog behaviour, volunteer responsibilities, understanding boundaries, SafeTalk suicide awareness and communication skills. They also go through a police check.

"The service is for people who have some physical limitations which means they can't walk or lift or groom or bath their dog," Mr Wischnat said.

"Sometimes the volunteers drive the senior and their pet to the vet, but we don't provide any pet care.

"The volunteer enables the owner to look after their pet in a way that the owner can't.

"We have also had cats, a snake and birds," he added. The volunteers have helped prepare cat meals or clean out a bird's cage.

Caloundra resident Betty, 96, lives alone and has a "sensational dog who is probably as old as she is, in dog years," Mr Wischnat said. Betty is a long-time user of the service.

"I am really grateful for the program," she recently told Mr Wischnat. "There is nothing quite like having support so you can keep your dog and have a connection with your dog. I love dogs; they are much smarter than a lot of people give them credit for. We all need to have connections with animals, especially dogs."

Mr Wischnat says he is happy to chat to people on the phone or in person, and to present to groups or organisations about the service.

For more about Pets For Life phone Mark Wischnat on 5491 4000.

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