For three and a half years, retired farmer Howard Owens has been visiting an aged care facility in his hometown of Manjimup, in southern Western Australia. 

Key points:

  • Howard Owens serenades residents at an aged care facility every few weeks
  • He is accompanied by his faithful border collie Kip
  • Many of the residents were farmers so the working dog breed brings back fond memories 

Mr Owens brings his guitar and faithful four-legged sidekick Kip whenever he visits, serenading the seniors with classic tunes that many can sing along to. 

Kip’s talents include being incredibly cute and fluffy.

“She doesn’t have any qualifications, just that she likes to wag her tail and demand to be petted,” Mr Owens said.

“She’s very friendly, she looks people in the eye, sits down and puts her head on their knee.”

A close up of a black and white dog

Kip the border collie loves visiting the residents at the Baptistcare village.  (ABC South West WA: Ellie Honeybone)

Many of the residents at the Baptistcare facility are former farmers, so interacting with a working dog can bring back fond memories. 

“Oftentimes I’ll be here and there’ll be someone who will be sitting at a table and sort of half asleep and not really communicating,” Mr Owens said. 

“But the dog comes in and next thing you know, we’ve got a conversation going about dogs they’ve owned, farms they’ve lived on and all the other things that go with it. 

“So she’s a great conversation icebreaker and starter.”

A man holds a guitar and sits next to a dog

‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Along the Road to Gundagai’ are some of the classic tunes that Howard sings during his visits.  (ABC South West WA: Ellie Honeybone)

After learning to play guitar at the local school when he was around 15, Mr Owens has continued to work on his skills and can sometimes be found performing at open mic nights in town.

“I wouldn’t say I’m the best singer in the world,” he said.

“But I do tinkle along and people can generally work out what tune I’m playing.”

Angelina Reeve, the lifestyle coordinator at the centre, said having people bringing their dogs in for therapy was really rewarding. 

“Our volunteers play a huge role in giving our residents a meaningful lifestyle,” she said.

“Howard goes around to each part of the facility and shares the love and the music. 

“We’re all very fond of him and Kip, not only the residents but the staff, we love to see both of them.”

Posted , updated 

Dog therapy with a dose of music for aged care residents
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