Graham and Greta’s story

Greta is a chocolate Labrador who is rewriting the narrative for Graham Permezel. No longer is he seen as a man with dementia but as a man with a dog, albeit an extremely special one.

In 2015, Hammond Care Dementia Centre and Assistance Dogs Australia launched the Dogs For Dementia program in NSW and Victoria. Graham, 80, was diagnosed with dementia about two and a half years ago. While his wife Jan says the dementia was progressing slowly, Greta’s presence in their home is helping more than they both could have imagined.

The couple thought their pet ownership days were behind them. “It’s been 20 years since we’ve had a dog,” Jan says, but Greta has given Graham a real sense of purpose. He has interactions through her and it gives him real motivation. She also gives me peace of mind because I know if I’m out, Graham has a companion. She follows him around, like his shadow, it is beautiful. We talk a lot through Greta.”

Dementia Centre director associate professor Colm Cunningham says: “Preliminary results from an overseas study show that the presence of the specially trained dogs can help support the person with dementia and carer, extending their capacity to live at home.

“Reduced hospitalisation and delayed admission to residential aged care are possible outcomes. We will also be evaluating the positive impact these beautiful dogs can have on the care-giving relationship and carer well-being.”

Each Assistance Dog costs over $35,000 to train

This includes everything from purchasing a puppy to food, vaccinations, training and placement. Assistance Dogs are provided free of charge to people in need.

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