Something very exciting arrived in the post this week.
***drum roll please***
A while ago, our Annabel had an assessment to see if she would be suitable as a P.A.T dog, and she has passed with flying colours! This makes me so happy. Most owners are already privy to the wonderful healing qualities their dog can bring them, but us lucky few who have the special honour of owning a therapy dog get to share that special feeling with people who really need it.
Here’s what Pets as Therapy have to say about themselves:
Pets As Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983. It is a community based charity providing therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments from volunteers with their pet dogs and cats.
Since its beginning over 28,000 dogs have become registered PAT dogs. Every year some of these wonderful dogs need to retire and new dogs, having first passed a health, temperament, and suitably assessment, join Pets As Therapy.
Today there are over 5,000 active PAT dogs & a smaller number of PAT cats working throughout the UK. Every week visiting PAT teams bring comfort and companionship to 1,000’s of people, both young and old, by giving them the opportunity to stroke, hold and talk to one of these calm and friendly dogs and cats.
Pets As Therapy also provide individual animal assisted therapy (AAT), working with stroke patients and people with dog phobias.
The Charity’s Read2Dogs programme helps children in classroom settings improve their reading ability by helping to increase their confidence and enjoyment of reading.
I love everything about this charity. I feel very excited to be a part of it.
Let me rewind about 7 months. I had seen a dog on the website of our local rescue kennels by the name of ‘Big Gracie.” She was some sort of terrier cross, shared a name with my daughter (apart from the ‘big’ bit of course) and looked adorable. I went to visit her, and my daughter came with me.
Big Gracie was certainly a character but after chatting to the kennel worker, it quickly became clear that she wasn’t the dog for us. Not cat friendly, not always tolerant of other dogs, and it was not really known what her temperament was like with younger kids. Damn.
Throughout the whole conversation, my daughter had been tugging my coat incessantly.
“Mummy mummy mummy mummy.”
“Not now darling. Let mummy talk to the man about the doggy.”
“Mummy mummy look! Pease look!”
“Two minutes! Just shush for two minutes please.”
Tug tug, “Mummy Mummy.”
The kennel worker and I finish our chat as best we can over the constant interruption.
“Right sweetheart. Finished talking now. What is it?”
“Mummy look at this one.”
My 4 year old daughter takes my hand and leads me two or three kennel spaces down and points to a rough coated blonde lurcher. Silent with her head and tail down. Painfully thin and with big brown eyes. Something funny happens to my heart when we look at each other.
“She looks sad Mummy. Maybe we should take her home?”
She is brought out to meet us and on bending down and whispering a kind word in her ear, I am rewarded with a gentle wag of a blonde tail with a frosty white tip. She has been picked up living rough, with burns on her skin, ribs jutting out, and a sore red spot on her nose from rubbing it on the kennel bars. She is cat, dog and child friendly. I know then and there my little girl spotted her for a reason. . . that she is meant to be ours.
Our other dog Badger – a greyhound – had been crying at night since the loss of his belgian shepherd companion a few weeks previously. Annabel helped heal him. She also helped heal our broken hearts too – we were desperately upset at the loss of Fizz – a dog we had found at the exact same shelter all those years ago. I know he would have approved of us giving another dog a chance of a new life.
And it went both ways – we have worked so hard with Annabel, who has had horrendous separation anxiety due to her traumatic past – (read the diary here) and we have helped each other put sadness behind us. Now, her issues are resolved, her tail is wagging, her scars have healed, and it’s her turn to bring a little healing and a little comfort to others.
What a journey we are on, eh my girl? So proud.
Annabel has her first visit to a nursing home tomorrow. She has also been put on the list for the “read to a dog” scheme and phobia therapy.
Read more about Pets as Therapy or donate here.