Bella the pet therapy dog visits RIDBC

Ali, who has profound hearing loss, is enjoying a visit from pet therapy dog, Bella

Volunteer, Anne Lazberger, is bringing smiles to the faces of students at Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) with the help of her pet therapy dog, Bella.

Throughout Term One, Anne and Bella have been making weekly visits to RIDBC Alice Betteridge School, which caters for students who have a significant vision or hearing loss as well as a level of intellectual impairment.

“I decided last year that I’d like to get Bella assessed as a therapy dog, and she passed,” said Anne. “My husband has a relationship with RIDBC through his work, so when one of his colleagues suggested I could take Bella into RIDBC’s schools, I jumped at the chance.

“It’s been such a wonderful experience. Bella really enjoys all the pats and she seems unfazed by the wheelchairs and the occasional bump to the eye!”

Anne says she looks forward to her weekly visits and hopes to continue them throughout the year.

“It’s a lovely experience for me being able to ‘go to work’ with my dog, but it’s also so rewarding,” said Anne. “Teachers tell me during my visits that Bella has brought the first smile to a child’s face all day. It’s the small things, but they definitely add up.

“Volunteering is a great thing to do. The more you put in to life, the more you get out of it.”

Bella arrives at the school during play time.

“If Bella’s late the students ask where she is!” said RIDBC Alice Betteridge School Curriculum Co-ordinator, Jessteene Clifford. “The students love Bella so they are really motivated to learn when she is around. That enthusiasm is helping them develop their speech and language – just little things like having them ask if they can pat her again. They also bring Bella water and make sure she is comfortable during her visits; it’s a very positive experience and we are so grateful to Anne for her support.”

The volunteering program at RIDBC plays a vital role in ensuring that RIDBC staff can continue to deliver services to children with hearing or vision loss both locally, and around Australia. Volunteers contribute 22,000 hours of work to RIDBC each year, valued at $550,000.

RIDBC volunteers assist with a variety of tasks including; classroom tasks, formatting material for children with vision loss, gardening, administration, fundraising and transport. To find out how you can get involved, call (02) 9871 1233.

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children a year across Australia

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in children's lives.  In order to maintain its intensive educational and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.