Tag Archives: Pets as therapy

Our First Visit – P.A.T

So in our last post we were all thrilled with the news that Annabel had passed her assessment to be a Pets As Therapy dog. Yes we were – not just me. Well, we didn’t waste much time, and started our venture together today at the local nursing home. I am pleased to report that Annabel was a super star and did her new job to perfection. I was pretty sure I’d enjoy the experience, but I was unprepared for how moving it was.

It was a lovely establishment, with wonderful staff and a nice atmosphere. I was nervous signing in and going through into the day room, but the faces that lighted up on seeing my girl trot in to say hello melted away the nerves in a heartbeat.

L has bright blue eyes and a lovely smile. He was thrilled when Annabel put her head on his lap, calling over the nurse to have a look “She likes me! See?” and telling me all about the Labrador he had as a young married man.

D is a happy soul but doesn’t retain much short-term memory or new information. She forgets my name every few seconds and asks the same questions over and over again. D is really friendly and I instantly like her.  “I can’t stroke her lovey,” she tells me “my hands are twisted, look” and she shows me her hands in a fixed position, I imagine due to arthritis. “Perfect for tickling her head with D. She likes that.” D smiles and tickles Annabel’s head. Annabel does indeed like it, and grunts appreciatively making D laugh.

We are then taken by a nurse to visit some private rooms, where I meet a wonderfully sharp and well dressed lady I could’ve talked to for hours, who is fascinated by the charity and the work we do. A few rooms down is a resident who seems totally in her own world. This second lady doesn’t speak to me, but spends a long time very slowly stroking Annabel’s head and whispering in her ear. I wonder what they were talking about? None of my business.

The last person in a private room we see is a very frail looking, tiny women curled in her bed and sighing deeply. Bless her, I think. In we go . . .  Annabel wags her tail and puts her head onto the bed, and the lady springs to life making me jump a little. She is literally squealing with delight and laughing out loud at my lovely lurcher’s gentle hand-licks. “Fantastic!” She cries out. “Ooooh, isn’t she lovely. OOoh ‘hello beautiful!'”

As we travel back down with the nurse in the lift, she agrees that seeing the faces light up as we introduce ourselves is a very special thing, and I am surprised to feel a little emotional.

Back in the day room for a quick goodbye, some family have arrived to visit some of the residents, who point to Annabel and introduce her to their loved ones, seemingly enjoying being the giver of some different news rather that the receiver. As we are walking out the door D shouts over “Bye bye Annabel.”

And that’s why it works. Pets As Therapy give people in nursing homes the chance to be the one to impart care for a change. They give people the pleasure and chance of an unconditional cuddle, or chat that does not require a response. They make people smile. They encourage reminiscence of previous dogs the client may have owned and loved, and comfort those who may have had to give up a pet to be there. As the charity themselves put it:

“These dogs bring everyday life closer and with it all the happy associations for them of home comforts. The constant companionship of an undemanding animal, that gives unconditional love, is often one of the most missed aspects of their lives. Pets As Therapy was formed to help make this loss more bearable.” – P.A.T

We are going back next Saturday.

Photo: Our first official visit to a nursing home 󾌵 #PetsAsTherapy

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Pets as Therapy . . . The journey begins.

Something very exciting arrived in the post this week.

***drum roll please***

TA DAAAAA

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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.

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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.

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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.

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