We are accustomed to the idea that if we have a pet, whether it’s a pony or a gerbil, we must look after it, feed it, clean out its cage, exercise it. The idea that our pets help care for us – Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Riding for the Disabled, for instance – is the other side of the caring coin.
I was recently introduced to another service that dogs provide for us humans. Therapets is a visiting scheme run by the Canine Concern Scotland Trust which recruits volunteer dogs and their owners to visit children and people in homes, hospitals and hospices to provide comfort and cheer. I accompanied Clova and owner Mrs Caroline Hippisley to Whitehills Hospital in Forfar to visit some of the senior patients in Clova and Isla wards. Clova is a Labradoodle a cross Labrador and Standard Poodle and is a regular visitor there. Welcomed by staff and patients and clearly quite at home in this caring environment, Clova led the way. There were old friends looking out for her and new patients who welcomed a cherry tail-wagging visit.
These visits can be very calming for patients and it’s known that just stroking a dog can help reduce blood pressure. Time in hospital can be disorientating and long-term patients in particular can feel isolated. Clova, breezing into their room and allowing herself to be stroked and petted helps keep them engaged with the ordinary world outside, especially if they have left pets of their own at home.
This article is an extract from the “The Courier & Advertiser” Dundee, written by Angus Whitson “MAN WITH TWO DOGS”.
Article appeared in the Courier & Advertiser on the 16th June 2012.
Picture shows Clova and Therapet Volunteer Caroline