If you thought grazier Frank Finger and his kelpies Annie and Lucifer had already reached peak wholesomeness you were wrong.
The trio, who stole hearts in ABC TV’s Muster Dogs series, has started nursing home visits to provide companionship and engage residents who spend most of their time inside.
“I just have an interest in that and wanted to be able to help,” Mr Finger said.
“I’ve been wanting to do it all year but because of COVID we couldn’t do it until [a few] weeks ago.”
The working dogs swapped the paddocks for the Montcler Nursing Home, a small facility adjoining Clermont Hospital in central Queensland.
Mr Finger said the residents were all people he had done business with or were from surrounding properties.
“I know them all,” he said.
“They’re all people who’ve had a part, way back, in shaping what I am.”
The canine celebrities made an impromptu visit to an Atherton facility in June, but Mr Finger said regular visits to see the residents in the local home were his priority.
“It is sad because last time you see them they’re in the street and now they’re here,” he said.
“But that’s life and if we can help, we’ll keep coming.”
Merle Pryde, 96, has known Mr Finger since he was a little boy.
“It’s always a joy to see Frank,” she said.
“Some dogs are very shy, they won’t go near anyone they don’t know. But these dogs, they’re very friendly.
Ms Pryde said spending time with champion muster dog Annie, named after Mr Finger’s late mother, was a highlight.
“When my mum died early, Frank’s mum did a lot of things for me,” she said.
“She was a very good friend and a very lovely person, and so is Frank.”
Ivan Bettrdige, 98, said he looked forward to future visits.
“They get to like you, they stay with you and starve with you.
“That’s what dogs are like, they’re very good.”
Benefits of pet therapy
Diversional therapist Claudia Stephson said finding ways to engage residents, tailored to their individual interests, was important.
“The daughter of one of our residents said Frank would be willing to come and visit and asked would we be interested — we jumped on that,” she said.
“Pet therapy is wonderful and some homes have their own dog or cat, but a visit from dogs that you’ve seen on TV that just adds that little bit of extra spice.”
Ms Stephson noticed an immediate difference in most residents.
“It’s uplifting,” she said.
“It’s not just for the three-quarters of an hour or an hour that he’s here, it takes weeks for the effect to subside.
“The dogs by themselves would be wonderful, just the contact, it’s very comforting.
“But the fact that most people know Frank, call him Frankie or knew his mum, know his family, compare notes about cousins — it makes it even more meaningful and he’s quite a lovely bloke.”
Mr Finger said the kelpies could tell which residents were keen to interact.
“I think [Annie and Lucifer] were accepting it — they probably don’t know what it is but if we make these regular visits they’ll probably look forward to it just as much as the people,” he said.
Watch Frank Finger and his beautiful dogs in the much-loved ABC TV Series Muster Dogs on ABC iview.