Jo, Dave & Lexi Algie - July 2022 Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
‘Mental health, like cancer, doesn’t choose who it effects. The thing about mental health is, even though it’s unseen, it’s still an illness’.
Dave and Jo live in Koo Wee Rup on the dairy farm Jo grew up on and are advocates for promoting mental health awareness. They have a unique way of engaging people to initiate mental health conversations, in the form of a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog, Lexi. Dave and Jo bought Lexi as a pup, having no idea at the time of the great gift that Lexi would be to connect with people as a peer support dog.
Jo has been a Paramedic for 13 years and Team Manager at the Drouin Ambulance Branch for the past few. Jo was initially involved with a pilot program in Ambulance Victoria (AV) with a Peer Support Dog Program. She was hesitant to involve Lexi due to the extensive assessments and the toll it might take on Lexi’s welfare. However, she decided to go for it when she realised that Lexi was born with an ability to break the ice and get tough conversations started with people in a powerful way. Lexi has an incredible penchant for singling out people in need. Over the summer of 2019/20 Jo took Lexi as part of the AV Peer Support Dog program and visited employees, first responders and their families, and other members of the community in East Gippsland that had been heavily impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. Lexi would follow certain people around in the hall where everyone was gathered and sit beside them. Eventually, they would kneel down, cuddle her, and cry. Unknown to Jo at the time, every single person who Lexi had singled out that day had lost their homes to the fires. Jo says Lexi sits and soaks up their tears, she never pulls away, just lets them hug her as long as is needed. Jo realises she has a very special dog and Lexi is a great way to help her to promote mental health awareness and, as one of the Peer Responders, has recognised that there is a need for people to feel heard and supported. Jo says many people try to be stoic around others but seem to feel free to let their guard down around animals, and thus begin ‘the chat’. Jo was honoured for her work across AV with the Ambulance Service Medal, a Commonwealth honour under the Order of Australia, in 2021.
Dave and Jo are aware that dairy farming can be isolating, so a few years ago they implemented a robotic dairy system and now they have more time to enjoy getting away from the farm, even if only for a few hours for dinner. They take great joy from the many animals they have around them, their work in the health industry, and in milk production. Their hope is that as conversations around mental health evolve things will get better for farmers and those suffering in silence.
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