Dayna’s New Leash on Life
By Fran Molloy
Dayna Veraguth (BAppSc (Leisure & Health) ’07) spotted her ideal job in the USA – and when there was no Australian equivalent, she set up her own.
When Dayna Veraguth was studying at Cumberland, she read about a therapeutic ‘dog camp’ in the USA for inner-city kids to play with trained facility dogs. She soon realised...
Hoping to arrange a final-year student placement at a similar place, Dayna discovered that nothing like it existed in Australia; and going overseas wasn’t a realistic option. Frustrated, she discussed her idea with her Course Coordinator, Jo Ragen – who Dayna explains enabled her to dream and reach for something new. Jo pointed out that this could be an ideal business opportunity for Dayna.
“My passions were outdoor recreation, dogs and horses. When I thought about setting up a business to equip health professionals with the skills and resources to work with their own facility dogs, I realised it would be just perfect for me.”
Putting the dream in place involved more hurdles than Dayna could ever have anticipated, but she was able to use her 13-week final placement period to develop the business concept and look for a business mentor, gathering skills and professional contacts on the way.
Three years on, Dayna’s business ‘Competent K9’ has gone from dream to reality.
In school holidays, her dog-themed kid’s camps are a hit with children from all walks of life. But her main clients are allied health professionals.
“A lot of my clients are diversional therapists, who have been exposed to visitational dogs already and they understand why you might need to take the next step.”
Dayna explains that she focuses on animal assisted therapy, a therapeutic intervention where health professionals include animals as an integral part of their practice to assist their clients in achieving set outcomes.
One of her clients is a speech therapist working with young children. Dayna has helped the therapist train Billy (a very cute terrier) to respond to cues so that Billy puts his paw over his eye when a young patient gives an incorrect response and rests his paw on the child’s knee when the response is right.
“Billy’s got a whole repertoire of tasks and he really builds great rapport with the children,” she explains.
There’s plenty of potential for expansion – Dayna says that she’d love to be more involved with incorporating dog–oriented programs into facilities like refugee centres, gaols and special schools.
“While people in our community remain marginalised either by physical or emotional isolation, there are programs to be developed and people to empower.”
Ultimately, Dayna hopes to have her own facility – and a few more dogs of her own.
“Making the transition from full-time study to setting up a new business from the ground up at age twenty was tough,” she admits.
“But I’m really passionate about what I do. I’ve learned now that the difference between the impossible and possible lies in a person’s determination.”