Frida is a two-year old female Münsterländer which accompanies Sarah, nurse and psychologist, on some of her marauds. In her mediating role at Street Nurses, Frida helps Sarah to bond and open up a dialogue with homeless patients. But how does this work in practice?
First, Sarah prepares the ground
Before taking Frida with her, she makes sure the circumstances are optimal: the patients planned to meet that day must like dogs and the weather must be fine.
The selection of homeless patients to come into contact with Frida happens in a concerted manner. “We discuss this issue during our team meetings and consider what added value Frida can bring to certain patients.” But sometimes it happens by chance. “Street-based work is much less predictable than with patients in housing and sometimes a contact gets established spontaneously. I must remain flexible.”
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While working, Frida knows what she’s doing
Before leaving, Sarah warns Frida: “When I tell her in the morning ‘Come Frida, we’re going to work!’ and she comes out of her bed basket, it means she is ready!”
Upon arrival at patients of Street Nurses, Frida gets into working posture. “When I crouch down to talk to someone, Frida sits next to me. Most of the time there is eye contact, and she is rather quiet. Sometimes she wants to be caressed by the patient.”
Dog mediation is both useful and pleasant
Sarah always brings a treat of some kind which patients can give to Frida. “That makes them take care of a small creature. And each time that’s a special moment.”
Because Frida is present, attention is no longer focused on the patient. “Some people comment on Frida’s soft fur, others are anxious to know whether she got enough to eat that day. That’s how we can start conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen.”
Incidentally, Frida often reawakens memories or wishes. . “I must be careful because a dog is not always possible for homeless people, especially if they’re no longer mobile. Frida confronts them with their condition and that doesn’t always correspond to their wishes for the future.”
They then conclude and move on
When the moment arrives to say goodbye to the patient, Sarah must see to a proper conclusion of the meeting. “I ask if the patient has any more questions and then tell them we arrived at the end of the conversation. That’s to prepare for the void which Frida will leave behind… Until next time!”
After returning at the Street Nurses office, Sarah must allow Frida to relax. “We then go to the parc for a while where she can play with other dogs. And then she can do something soothing like chewing on a bone. I try to avoid too many stimuli and make sure that she feels at ease among the colleagues.”
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(*) We do our utmost to respect the privacy of our patients and our professional secrecy. However, we want to testify to how they must survive and how we are working together to reintegrate them. As a result, the names of places and people are deliberately omitted or changed and real-life situations are placed in a different context. There is no direct link between the photos and the stories above.