Lucy Calder of West Ballina with her Assistance Dog Sullivan. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Lucy Calder of West Ballina with her Assistance Dog Sullivan. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

The priceless pet dog who helps lift depression

BALLINA mum Lucy Calder has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a child but has always felt a special connection to dogs.

Her 11-month year old German-Belgian shepherd Sullivan is not just a pet, but a one-of-a-kind therapeutic companion.

She is training Sullivan for public access accreditation with the help of a national organisation called mindDog, which helps people people who experience mental illness find and train companion dogs.

“He’s like a guide dog for the mind,” Ms Calder said.

She adopted Sullivan from Belgian Shepherd Rescue Australia in Brisbane about six months ago when he was still a young pup.

“I took him on a trial to see how he would react to different situations and handle stress and he did really well,” she said.

“He’s not perfect, but any of his issues are because he’s young and he’s excited about doing things.

“I think it was more of a gut thing, there was a real connection there, and he really got along well with the kids which was a big thing.

“He’s really good with them, they’ll go and play with him, they’ll even sit down and have a talk to him sometimes.

“He’s got a very good temperament for what I need him for.”

As a single mum she is faced with the often daunting task of parenting her two young boys, aged two and four, and her mental illness often makes her feel apprehensive about leaving the house.

Having Sullivan about means she’s more likely to get out and about, which is good for her health and keeping a positive frame of mind.

She also likes to talk to Sullivan just as any loving pet owner will often do.

“I can tell him things, once I’ve got the kids to bed I can sit down… and have a de-stress with him, brush him and pat him.

“It’s calming, so I’m not thinking about everything else that’s bothering me.”

Working with Ballina dog trainer Sarah Rutten from the Canine Perspective, she is in the process of preparing Sullivan to pass the public access test sometime next year.

Sullivan must demonstrate he is mature and competent in all situations so he can be granted full public access.

She knows he’ll make it.

“He’s boosted my confidence... he’s a special boy,” she said.

“He’s just beautiful, he’s one of my kids now.”



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