A new type of therapy for people struggling with mental health has arrived on the Border.
Wodonga counseller Anita Geary, from Insight Therapies, has been providing clients with animal-assisted therapy for the past few months and said it was about much more than just enjoying the company of the dog.
Bacardi, the four-year-old Labrador, is helping clients through some of their hardest times.
"There is so much benefit to animal assisted therapy," Ms Geary said.
"I started with Bacardi because friends always used to comment on her ability to pick up when they were feeling down or stressed.
"She would just go and put her head on their lap.
"To me, healing from whatever is keeping you down isn't just about talking about it, it is really about having a safe caring relationship with trust and feeling those emotions.
"Bacardi is great as she remembers people from the first time she meets them and instantly makes clients feel at ease."
Ms Geary said Bacardi had completed her International Therapy Dog Assessment, making herself and Bacardi the first counsellor canine team in the area.
"For some people, especially children and older adults, putting their feelings into words can be half the struggle," she said.
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"Therapy can often feel like a strange environment so anything we can do to make it more inviting goes a long way.
"That is where Bacardi comes in; she really picks up on the client's feelings and a lot of my clients tend to sort of talk to her rather than talking to me.
"Looking into her big brown eyes, and stroking her and that sense of safety and unconditional love, gives their nervous system time to settle down and put some words into how they are feeling.
"Reaching out is sometimes really hard when you think you have to sit down and speak words to somebody.
"She is almost like an anchor."
Ms Geary said she was passionate about animal assisted therapy and would train Bacardi's daughter Kahlua once she was old enough.
"She is only 10 months old so she still has to be a puppy for a bit longer," she said.
"I think having the two will really enhance that ability to see what the person in the room needs."