Whether they’re cuddling up on the couch with you, begging for your food, or simply jumping for joy to greet you when you get home, dogs do the simple things in life that put smiles on the dials of human faces.
Small business owner, Taryn Chalmers, is one young lady who lights up with a smile every time a dog is mentioned and admits she’s had an infectious love for four-legged friends ever since she could remember.
“I absolutely love dogs! I definitely love all animals, and I’ve grown up with them my entire life but there’s just something about dogs that makes me feel like I’ll always have a special place for them in my heart,” she says.
But it was a magnetic mix of Taryn’s respective devotion to canine companions and the aging population that made her small business idea come to fruition.
“While studying for my PhD, I discovered an abundance of interesting research proving how many benefits canine companionship can bring to people, and in particular, the aging population,” she explains. “So, I thought of a way to bring seniors and canines together with the aim to improve their overall mental and physical health – and that’s how Animals for All Care was born.”
Animals for All Care sees the medical student and more than 20 volunteers take homeless dogs from the RSPCA’s Yagoona animal shelter to visit the residents of aged care facilities across New South Wales. The small business charity also facilitates and pays for adoptions if residents or family members choose to adopt a pooch.
The 29-year-old says the visits from these furry friends not only gives the seniors something to look forward to every week, but also helps with depression, anxiety, stress, and even reduces the number of hospitalisations and falls in aged care facilities.
“It also promotes socialisation and interactions between the elderly who would never normally come out of their rooms,” Taryn explains.
“We had a guy who had just lost his wife a few months ago and hadn't come out of his room or even spoken a word. Not one word. We took Barney – who’s one of our favourite dogs at the RSPCA – for a visit and the man emerged from his room, started playing with Barney and started talking.”
The simple interaction between man and dog – which left the nursing staff in tears – was one of the pivotal moments when Taryn knew her small business charity was making a mark on more than just one person’s life.
“I think they're the kinds of things that make me think running a business is all worth it,” she says with her hand on her heart.
Taryn – who is studying medicine at the University of Notre Dame Australia and teaches science at the University of Technology Sydney where she’s also completing her PhD in neuroscience – says although owning and running her own small business has its rewards, it’s hard work and presents its fair share of challenges.
“Even with the help of more than 20 volunteers – and 50 more waiting to be trained – we need to visit 15 different nursing homes around Sydney, and self-fund any possible adoptions of the dogs, so financial resources can be hard at times and especially difficult during Christmas” she says.
According to CGU’s research, about 68% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) miss out on social events during Christmas. And to celebrate all the hard-working ambitious business owners across Australia, CGU teamed up with Nova to present The Big Small Business Christmas Party on December 10, hosted by Nova’s very own Wippa.
Animals for All Care was one of three lucky businesses to win $5,000 to put towards their business Christmas wish.
“My Christmas wish is just to have enough financial and intellectual support to build the marketing side of my business,” Taryn says. “In the last two years of the charity’s existence we’ve received a total of $938 in donations. So, receiving $5,000 from CGU and Nova is huge for us! I am completely grateful and humbled by it all.”
To add to Taryn’s anticipation on the night of The Big Small Business Christmas Party, Animals for All Care was crowned with the $5,000 People’s Choice Award and was also gifted with a $3,000 Facebook advertising voucher presented by Facebook’s Industry Head of Financial Services, John Arnott.
“This is life changing money for me,” she enthused. “You could not believe it…this means we can visit 20 to 25 more facilities. I just feel really lucky.”
To fulfil Taryn’s aspiration of growing the business and connecting seniors with dogs without a home, she’ll be spending the prize money on training 50 new volunteers, getting custom shirts printed as uniforms, treating her dedicated volunteers to a Christmas lunch and hiring a marketing and social media whizz to help the business flourish.
“I’m just in awe. This year has been a great year and the business’s success has been a team effort. I feel extremely lucky and this money will help us do so much more to make 2019 an even greater year,” she says with excitement.
“This will help us achieve the physical and mental wellbeing of our aging population and the health and happiness of the animals. We can move forward and help so many people, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help from all the lovely volunteers and the RSPCA.”
Animals for All Care has been asked to extend the scheme to Queensland where the small business charity will continue to change the quality of life for so many Australian seniors and animals alike.
“Our ambition will ensure that both groups receive every opportunity to live a long and happy life.”