We have always enjoyed the HiLife PAT Dog of the Year presentation day at Crufts, where one of six top dogs and their owner are to be crowned winner for the positive impact they have made through volunteering in their local community.
Pets As Therapy (PAT) is an independently funded charity with over 5,000 volunteers across the UK. Its registered PAT pets provide animal assisted therapy and bring comfort, smiles and friendship to thousands of people every week. As a company that strongly believes in the powerful impact pets can have on our wellbeing, we have supported the charity for over 15 years.
If you love dogs as much as we do, keep reading to hear more about these super pups and the special stories that put them in the running to become HiLife PAT Dog of the Year 2019.
Meet the Pack
Bella the Bichon Frise and owner Barry Coase
Barry decided to become a PAT volunteer when he realised that Bella could help others like she helped him. He said, “Bella is a rescue dog and she didn’t have the best start in life. I got her when I was struggling with PTSD and she helps me manage it. She has a natural instinct for recognising when someone needs support. We volunteer for Combat Stress, a charity that supports the mental health of ex-servicemen, and have found that veterans, like me, are able to open up in therapy when they are stroking Bella. We also visit local schools so that children can read to Bella and build up their confidence. She is a lovely dog with a very calm nature.
Molly the Border Collie and owner Peter Elvidge
Peter started volunteering with Molly after he was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. Molly spends time at Beeston Library, helping at reading time with children and she often visits mental health wards and stroke units at the local hospital. Peter said, “When I became ill, Molly really pulled me through and I thought about how she had helped me, and how I could give something back. Molly is so calm and gentle. She is happy to be fussed and stroked and brings as much joy to others as she does to me.”
Jack the Labrador and owner Cath Jones
Jack and Cath visit many establishments including a hospital, a school and nursing homes. Catherine said, “Jack is extremely calm and sweet natured dog. I work in the care environment and understand that many residents miss their own pets. Seeing Jack provides them with a lot of comfort. I was totally shocked when we found out that we were in the final! Receiving such positive feedback from our clients and the staff is a reminder of the huge impact your dog can have on people’s lives.”
Abbee the Golden Retriever and owner Wendy Jones
Wendy often takes Abbee to spend time at Springdale Nursing Home to break up the day for the residents and provide much needed cuddles to patients on the children's ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Wendy said, “I wanted to be a PAT volunteer because I had a few hours to spare and I knew I had dog with a good temperament. I wanted to share her, to bring joy to others and hopefully make a difference. When I learned that Abbee had been chosen, I have to say I was so surprised. We are very grateful for the glowing testimonial we received from Nelson’s Journey, a therapeutic camp for bereaved children. Knowing I’ll probably have to retire Abbee at some point soon due to her arthritic knee joints, I’m really pleased to think she has achieved the accolade of being a finalist.”
Lulu the Labrador and owner Carol Clare
Lulu was nominated by the residential home Forbury, where she has visited continuously for four years. Forbury say, “Lulu and Carol are most welcomed by everyone. Lulu brings smiles and positivity for residents with dementia or end of life care. The home would not be the same without them.” One daughter of a resident at the home said “Lulu made Mum’s face light up and had a huge impact on her life. In mum’s last days she was so frail, but Lulu came in and mum managed to pat her and say, ‘Hello Lulu’. These were her last words.”
Maggie the Greyhound and owner Peter Ellis
Peter, now retired, and Maggie spend time visiting the wards of their Sue Ryder hospice in Peterborough and regularly support a local dementia group. Maggie has received a certificate from Sue Ryder for her work. Peter said, “As an ex-racer we expected Maggie to be quite an active dog but are pleased to find her a couch potato of some ability! Her calm attitude tolerates close attention from very young children and she loves being touched and stroked. To see her being taken down a corridor in a care home by a two year old visiting an ill relative brings a lump to the throat, and the welcome she gets from staff makes it worthwhile. Maggie, however, is still Maggie!”
Our managing director, Tony Parkinson, said: “We are always moved when hearing the inspiring stories of the Pets As Therapy volunteers and enjoy helping to celebrate the incredible power of pets!
“The selfless nature of these brilliant dogs and their ability to offer unconditional love brings so much joy to everyone they meet. ]It’s always been a privilege to be involved in the Crufts presentation day and meet the owners of these four-legged heroes. We love saying hello to them all!”
If you are interested in becoming a Pets As Therapy volunteer, visit www.petsastherapy.org or call 01844 345 445.
Photographs courtesy of Yours Magazine