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How one Hunter man’s passion for rescue dogs is changing lives


The late American actor WC Fields once famously stated “never work with children and animals”.

But, for local resident Dylan, who’s previously struggled with communication skills in a social setting, it’s been a blessing in disguise.

The youngster, who is autistic and lives with anxiety, has grown and flourished since participating in the Explore in Hunter Valley initiative.

Keenly interested in furry creatures, he’s currently completing his Certificate III in Companion Animals at TAFE.

And, after joining Happy Paws Happy Hearts (HPHH) more than a year ago, Dylan has become more confident around people and four-legged companions.

“He was invited to join the employment pathway program,” chief commercial officer Kellie Ireland told the Newcastle Weekly.

“In fact, it seemed like a perfect fit for Dylan, who hopes to work in the animal care industry.

“Explore in Hunter Valley is for participants ready to take the next steps into volunteering, working or further study in the sector and beyond.

“In an invite-only selection process, he’s the first cohort of people currently making their way through the successful initiative.”

As part of Explore, participants are taught employment concepts and skills, such as how to present themselves in the workforce.

The Happy Paws Happy Hearts team even took Dylan shopping to buy some more “business” clothes.

“I’m so glad to be a part of it,” he said.

“My favourite thing about HPHH is being able to assist all the animals, particularly the dogs, prepare for adoption.

“Helping them be happy and get a new home.

“(Working with them) helps them get used to people and that kind of interaction.”

One of his proudest achievements at Happy Paws Happy Hearts was preparing a socially-anxious dog, Yo-Yo, for adoption.

However, he’s seen a lot of canines find a home – and he’s happy to be a part of their journey.

“Yo-Yo was a very anxious dog, but he also loves people,” Dylan said.

“So, it’s very sweet to see him like bond with everyone in the group and get a lot more comfortable with everyone and connect with people.

“I feel really proud of it [the program].”

Dylan will soon graduate from his TAFE course… and complete a work placement as part of Explore.

“It makes me happy to be able to go every week because it makes me happy seeing all the animals,” he said.

To enquire about Explore in Hunter Valley, reach out to the enrolment team at

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