WA Young Achiever finalist Tara Lord and her four-legged friend Loki have been recognised for their work in supporting the Perth community with animal assisted therapy.
The 22-year-old rescued Loki in 2017 and has since had her accredited and trained to assist and support those suffering with mental health issues or those living with a disability.
“I decided to combine my passion for helping people and my love for animals and that is how my business started,” Ms Lord says.
She says although she never seeks thanks for what she does it is nice to be recognised for her achievements.
“We got the opportunity to reach out to a lot of people, people we didn’t necessarily have connections to before. We were able to network the program which created awareness for those who could benefit from it,” Ms Lord says.
Mental Health practitioner Ashley Tubb works at a psychiatric hospital where Loki and Tara have been visiting patients for the past two years.
She says it’s about creating a positive environment for the patient, rather than sitting in a clinical office which can be quite intimidating.
“It’s the feeling of love you will always receive from dogs, sometimes sitting there with another person, you might feel judged or nervous and you might not know how to say the words you want to say,” Ms Tubb says.
“When you talk to Loki it’s judgement free and even though she can’t respond to you in the way a psychologist would, it’s about getting those words out for the first time which can be the hardest thing to do.”
24-year-old Louise has been seeing Loki and Tara for more than two years, and says Loki has saved her life more than once.
“It gets lonely when you have mental health issues, you don’t have a lot of friends around, just seeing Loki and Tara is really good company,” Louise says.
Psychologist and Director of Lead the Way Melanie Jones says when we are in the presence of friendly animals our bodies produce the ‘feel good’ or ‘love’ hormone called oxytocin, and this causes a reduction in stress physiology.
People talk about what dogs mean to them. Captured by: Lauren Smith
Tara Lord does all her own fundraising and encourages support wherever she can.
“People can always sponsor a three hour visit by contacting Kupu Kupu Australia, we will then find someone who is in need of a visit, who can’t necessarily afford it themselves,” she says.
If you or anyone you know needs help please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.