You may have met Mika before, a whippet cross kelpie therapy dog. Mika works with Counsellor Luke on the Reconnect Program supporting youth at risk of homelessness in North East Melbourne. A large part of Mika and Luke’s work involves visiting their clients at school, in order to reduce time spent away from class. With the current Government restrictions to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 in place and most schools encouraging students to learn from home, we wanted to check in with Mika and Luke to find out how they are still supporting their clients in these unusual circumstances.

Welcome Mika and Luke, tell us how have you had to change your approach with current COVID-19 restrictions in place in order to still support your youth clients?

We used to do outreach visits to young people in schools, cafes, parks and homes. Covid-19 has seen changes for us all, and has taken a while to adapt to new technologies and ways of connecting. As we have moved to working mainly from home, we have had to move to telehealth sessions, phone, texts and emails. This is okay, but not quite the same. Mika isn’t great at using the telephone, but he makes appearances on teleheath sessions.

How is Mika coping with not being able to visit his adoring fans?

Not being able to go to work has impacted on Mika greatly. Even though he is going on more walks and runs, he really misses his work, meeting and helping people really makes him feel happy. He waits near the front door and gazes out of the front window, hoping to go to work. I thought he would be fine just being around our family, but you can see it’s just not the same. He misses them as much as they miss him, he thrives on his work. It’s not just the cuddles and pats in the counselling sessions with clients, young people in the school yard, it’s his offices friends, saying hello to people in the healthAbility waiting room, his co-workers (some who give him treats), and even the hallway ball chasing with the Principal on a Friday after school.

Is it true that Mika has his very own Instagram page?

When Mika had to start working from home, I knew that many out there were going to miss him, especially at the office and school he works at. So he started an Instagram page to stay connected. As a ‘Therapy Dog’, he sometimes posts some positive mental health messages, as well as about the way he is feeling, on both good and bad days. Sometimes his posts are just fun. He is no Instagram sensation, but it does seem like his closest friends are seeing, liking and commenting on his posts, and that is why he started it. He hasn’t mastered the selfie, as he is all paws, so I have to help him out. Check out mikadog35 if you want to see what he is up to.

Read about Luke and Mika and how they support young people in their full story A Fury Super Hero.

Mika’s story and many others have been created for our move, feel, connect well group promoting positive health, wellbeing and social connections during COVID-19 and beyond. To join the group visit facebook.com/groups/movefeelconnectwell/ or for more details check out: healthability.org.au/movefeelconnectwell