LOCAL golden retriever, Maggie May, celebrated her first birthday late last month.
Maggie is a much loved community member in Morwell, and can often be seen visiting local cafes, the newsagency and local police station.
Maggie’s owner, Mark Tanti, from Morwell’s Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), said “she’s got some big fans”.
Maggie, who gets her name from the classic Rod Stewart song, although already working with her owner at YSAS to brighten people’s day, is about to begin her official training as a therapy dog – working her human colleagues to deliver animal assisted therapy.
Maggie has been working with YSAS since Mr Tanti first brought her home in November 2020, entering the workforce after Victoria’s first lockdown.
“I got her on a Sunday at eight weeks old, and she came to work with me on the Monday,” he said.
“She’s a real extrovert. She really likes being around people.”
Mr Tanti’s interest in animal assisted care stems from an interaction his older dog, Barney, once had with a child in therapy. Barney was able to do what no human had done, he got the patient to open up.
Mr Tanti explained that dogs can be “one way of breaking the ice”, they get kids to feel comfortable, relaxed and engaged.
“It’s very disarming when you see a dog like this who’s very beautiful and very welcoming in an office setting,” Mr Tanti said.
“I want to continue this, I want to be able to provide this service to people that need it”.
Currently, Maggie spends time visiting children in residential care.
“As soon as they see her, they’re all smiles…they’re taking her for walks with the staff, they’re playing with her – and she’s assisting us in building relationships with the kids,” Mr Tanti said.
Mr Tanti describes the “instant hit of happiness” Maggie gives not only clients and staff at YSAS, but the community as well.
Describing how people passing by the YSAS office often stop to come inside and see Maggie.
YSAS is a support service for youth, providing outreach programs for young people between 12-21 years who need assistance with drug and alcohol abuse.
They also provide Youth Support Services for those between 10-17 years who could be at risk of entering the youth justice system.
The YSAS Gippsland office is located at 4 Tarwin St, Morwell.