FROM a young age East Fremantle’s Tara Lord had a passion for helping people and a love of dogs – so becoming a pet therapist was a natural fit.
After getting her rescue dog Loki from SAFE, an immediate bond was established and they went on to become an accredited therapy team called Kopu Kopu Australia.
It means butterfly in Indonesian and represents the transformation into a better life, Ms Lord says.
At first her age was a bit of a barrier.
“I had a problem being taken seriously because I was only 19.”
But a year after starting out, she and Loki now regularly visit mental health and disability centres, schools, respite centres, foster homes and aged care homes.
“Animal therapy is proven to reduce cortisol levels, stress hormones, and increase oxytocin – love hormones,” Ms Lord says.
The pair also work with The Autism Association and Graylands Youth Hostel.
One client describes the “darkness and anxiety” of mental illness.
“Loki’s visits remind me that life’s most poignant joys can come from the simplest of interactions and that it’s okay to stop and enjoy them.”
With Loki’s help, Ms Lord also teaches life skills like grocery shopping, socialising, and cooking.
One young man with autism discovered the joy of cooking with Loki’s help.
“He liked to pat and cuddle Loki, so I said ‘why don’t we make dog biscuits, and while doing that why don’t we make us biscuits too’,” Ms Lord says.
“After that we got him cooking for the family.”
Down the track Ms Lord hopes to develop a therapy ranch with a team of rescued cats, rabbits, donkeys and alpacas.
“Where clients can come for respite, rehab and much more…we also hope to have accommodation for families…as well as emergency accommodation for people experiencing domestic violence.”
Ms Lord was nominated for WA Young Achiever of the Year last year for her dog therapy work. For more information go to http://www.facebook.com/kupukupuaustralia/