Pets as Therapy18th February 2020
Unsung Heroes can come in many shapes and sizes – and this includes furry and four-legged. Whether you are a cat, dog, or even a reptile loving person, there is no denying the positive effect a pet can have on your well-being.
‘Pets as Therapy’ is a renowned charity, founded in 1983, whose aim is to enhance health and wellbeing in the healthcare community via providing Hospitals visits from volunteers and their assessed and trained animals. These visits provide companionship and friendship to patients, both old and young, in hospitals and helps to improve the lives of people suffering from mental and physical health conditions, such as Autism, Stroke, or Dementia. Additionally, Therapy Pets have been known to help children with literacy and improve their confidence and enjoyment with reading, through the read2dogs scheme.
The BBC recently reported how residents at a care home in West Lothian in Scotland had a visit from Alpacas and ‘chatted’ to them through the window! The same report also mentioned a one-year-old training service dog called “Wynn” in Denver, USA, who has been handing (or paw-ing) out hugs to health workers on their ward.
More local to the UK, a therapy dog handler at Southampton Children’s Hospital has launched an innovative alternative to ward visits for young patients during the coronavirus outbreak. Lyndsey Uglow, lead therapy dog handler at Southampton Children’s Hospital has delivered 1,500 drawings, produced by illustrator Daniel Howarth, of the Trusts therapy dogs for the children, relatives and members of staff to colour in.
Research into the role of pets on our well-being has been carried out at the Royal College of Nursing, based in London. This research has suggested that there are many benefits of pet ownership, including enhanced physical and psychological well-being. For example, such research has found that stroking a pet can be relaxing and can result in a reduction in blood pressure, as well as have a positive effect on anxiety. With all of this in mind it is no wonder that so many NHS Trusts now use the Pets as Therapy program.
Alder Hey recently wrote on their Facebook: “Holly is a Labrador Retriever and visits 2-3 times a week. Holly helps our young patients relax and feel less anxious and on her most recent visit, it looks like she found a new best friend in 5 year old Summer.”
Back in 2018, we even crowned therapy dog “Molly” of the Frank Lloyd Unit at Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust as the winner of the Special Mention Award showing just how much of an impact therapy animals can have on enhancing the wellbeing of patients.
We reached out on social media recently, and asked if there were other Trusts, or Pets as Therapy pet owners who wanted to share their story with us and we got a huge response from all over the country.
One response was from a well-known therapy dog called “Doug the Pug” from Buckinghamshire. Doug has worked as a therapy dog for Pets as Therapy for nearly nine years and has supported children in varying establishments, who hold many challenges, as well as helping individuals in elderly care rekindle memories from their past and help them socialise.
Doug also won ‘Most Heroic Hound Award’ at the National Pet Show in 2016 for supporting individuals with mental health challenges and his owner, Cate Arche, had this to say: “Doug came into our lives as an unofficial therapy dog to help a poorly family member during times of loneliness and isolation, due to a long-term chronic illness. It was through this that I realised how many people suffering ill health often do not want to be alone, but haven’t the strength to talk or listen.”
“Doug is like the most wonderful comfort blanket and encourages anyone with him to feel that they are in a safe, discreet place. We so love the work that we do. And feel so fortunate to work with people on their journey of recovery.”
If you have access to an animal, don’t forget to give them a big hug. We also hope to see some more lovely Therapy Pets nominated and shortlisted at our future awards!
Written by Lily Harrison | Freelance Content Writer