People and Places
30/01/2020
Spreading the happiness at Frankston Hospital

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At just over two years old, Kenzo has already been working as the Director of Happiness. This loveable labrador began his role last December at Frankston Hospital. It’s just another way he goes about supporting his co-workers. As the support dog he provides comfort to staff after they’ve experienced a tough work shift or simply a bad day. Having a cuddle or play with Kenzo helps reduce stress for the hardworking doctors and nurses. 

Peninsula Health partnered with the State Government and Guide Dogs Victoria on this pilot program. As an important and innovative project, it will investigate and monitor the impact of workplace dogs on the well-being of doctors and nurses. It’s also hoped that Kenzo will reduce the stigma around mental health and open up a conversation. The 18-month gig will hopefully see Kenzo helping with the anxiety, depression and improving mental health of those around him, with a formal evaluation of the program to follow. If it is successful, the program will be scaled up and used in other hospitals. It’s the first of its kind, and because Kenzo is the office buddy who is always ready for a hug, it appears it’s going paw-fectly. 

While roaming the wards of Frankston Hospital with his foster carer Jen Sidwell, Kenzo lends support in times of need and soon staff will be able to book him in for a walk. Yep, Kenzo is a king complete with a calendar because he’s in high demand due to his superpower. His superpower is no secret; he has a knack of making people happy. He can turn the day around for those around him and make the day positive. There’s no shortage of cuddles and pats for Kenzo, yet he never seems to fill his quota of cuddles received. He just can’t get enough. He’s addicted. In fact, he’ll sporadically jump up on a lap for a cuddle. Like any dog, he adores food — any food. You could say that he is somewhat obsessed, so he doesn’t have much of a preference unless there’s liver treats around as a reward for being a super good boy. 

He takes his role very seriously as Peninsula Health’s Director of Happiness. Upon arriving at work with Jen, this creature of habit goes about visiting each office. He doesn’t skip anyone, and takes his favourite toy along for the trip. He instinctively greets everyone and says “Hi”. Then comes the morning huddle where senior staff discuss any issues of the day and ask if there are any specific hospital departments that require a visit from Kenzo that day. The morning visits always include a stop-off at the Emergency Department before coming back to have a rest in Jen’s office. Depending on how tired he is from spreading happiness and lapping up all of the inevitable attention, Kenzo might head out for another one or two visits. 

Kenzo owns his title, alongside his foster mum Jen, who has been a part of Frankston Hospital for 11 years and holds a background in nursing. It was an easy transition for Kenzo to settle into his new home with Jen’s kids and 16-month-old border collie called Scout. Kenzo enjoys playing with his new fur sister with the kids in tow. 

It’s a tough gig but someone’s got to do it.

KATE SEARS

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