24 May 2023
Meet new Council worker, Layla. She’s not your average Border Collie/Moodle cross. As a trained assistance dog, she offers unwavering support and grounding to her owner and Council librarian, Caitlin.
Positive Response Assistance Dogs training helps mental health sufferers procure, train and certify their dogs to become psychiatric assistance dogs. These dogs assist people whose lives are often severely compromised by anxiety and fear.
Following several life-threatening experiences, Caitlin developed severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and she found it hard to manage her anxiety. That was until Layla came into her life. Layla is trained to recognise Caitlin’s specific distress signs and provide calming support to overcome panic attacks.
With Layla by her side, Caitlin is more confident and grounded in the workplace.
“Assistance dogs enable people with mental health issues to do the everyday activities that most people take for granted, such as travelling on public transport, going to the shops, going to work and taking part in social activities, which may have become overwhelming for them,” Caitlin said.
“My job at the Southern Downs Regional Library in Warwick became quite difficult at times due to my debilitating PTSD, but because of Layla, I am now more comfortable in the workplace. She is my lifeline and she enables me to live a more normal life.
“Layla alerts me to triggers before I notice them. She keeps me grounded, helping prevent and calm panic. I couldn’t do what I do now without her.
“Council has been very supportive of the new working arrangement, and I have only been able to take this step with the understanding of my manager Michael Bell and supervisor Marianne Potter.”
Manager People & Culture Dianne Woolley said that Council strives to meet the needs of its people on a case-by-case basis.
“We worked closely with Caitlin and her team to understand how we could support her in the workplace,” Ms Woolley said.
“We value the diversity of our organisation and appreciate that there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to approaching the working environment and our people.”
But it’s not all work and no play for Layla.
“We love our walks together, whether it’s around the neighbourhood, in the park or on the beach. Layla also loves to learn new things and is enjoying coming to work with me. Layla is also more than happy to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie. We do almost everything together,” Caitlin said.
“Layla’s favourite treat is a trip to the pet supply store to choose a new toy. She takes it very seriously, looking up and down the aisle before making her final decision. Currently her favourite toy is a very squeaky ball. She enjoys making as much noise as possible!”
Positive Response Assistance Dogs operate under the Guide, Hearing, and Assistance Dog Act 2009 which guarantees public access for all dogs trained as assistance dogs. In order to make it possible for assistance dogs to help their handlers, they are guaranteed access to all public places, including shopping centres, hospitals, public transport and restaurants on the provision that they are able to meet hygiene and behaviour standards.
An assistance dog comes in many different shapes and sizes, with many differing from the more traditionally seen breeds, such as Labrador and Golden Retriever.
Visitors to the Southern Downs Regional Library in Warwick will see Layla around, but are reminded not to approach guide, hearing or assistance dogs when they are wearing their working vest to allow them to focus on their important job.
Library users who may be concerned about allergies are encouraged to still visit the library as Layla remains with Caitlin at all times, and as part of her support role, will not be required to interact with visitors.
More information is available at:
Guide, Hearing, and Assistance Dog legislation:
General Guide, Hearing, and Assistance Dog information brochure:
Positive Response Assistance Dogs