After a decade of bringing smiles to hundreds of patients at Mater Hospital Brisbane, much-loved therapy dog Ruby is ready to hang up her lead.
Ruby and her handler Fiona Morton are the longest-serving Mater Pet Therapy team, and have spent close to 400 hours visiting patients with dementia and delirium at Mater Hospital Brisbane.
Mrs Morton, a Brisbane nurse, said 13-year-old Ruby, a ridgeback cross kelpie, was “getting on” and needed some time to rest.
She said Ruby was adored by staff and patients at Mater and has helped create special memories for patients of all ages since 2012.
“Ruby is very good with non-verbal people. She puts her head on their lap and waits for any non-verbal cues from them,” Mrs Morton, from Kenmore, said.
“Not long after we started volunteering at Mater, we went to see a gentleman in his hospital room. Ruby put her head on his lap, and he just started opening up and telling us stories. He started crying and I wondered what we had done.
“The nurses started standing at the bottom of his bed, and they said it was the first time he had spoken since being admitted. It was a lovely feeling.
“We saw the patient a few times after that and he kept calling Ruby by the name of Rosie, but that didn’t matter – she had a lot of time for him.”
Mater Volunteers Senior Manager Judy Johnson said Ruby and Mrs Morton had provided much appreciated visits and companionship to patients at Mater.
Ms Johnson said Mater’s Pet Therapy dogs loved a pat and spending time with people – and more of them are needed to join the program.
“We are looking for dogs who are comfortable with new environments and have a relaxed and calm demeanour. Also, dogs that are toilet trained and experienced in basic dog training commands,” she said.
Ruby finished her final shift last Thursday (3 February). Mrs Morton said volunteering with her beloved pooch had been “very rewarding”.
“It’s something very different to my role as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. I just love when we walk into a room and a patient’s face lights up and for a moment, they forget they are in hospital,” she said.
“Ruby is a pretty bullet-proof dog. She’s chilled, she’s calm and she’s a loving dog and that’s what everyone loves about her.”