On 2 July you would not have been mistaken if you saw a STV film crew and Ron Donachie (actor, recently known for his role in Game of Thrones [Rodrick Cassel]) on Ward 204 (Stroke Ward) at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. They were filming Ben, the ward’s Therapet at work and at home, as he has been shortlisted for the award “Hero Animal of the Year” with “RBS: Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes 2014” by a dedicated jury.
Ben was kindly nominated by Carole Ledingham, Unit Operational Manager in recognition for all his work as a Therapet since 2011.
Ben, myself and my husband, Alan, undertook a 6 month pilot study within Ward 204, to evaluate the feasibility of allowing a dog to enter into a hospital environment to visit patients. The pilot study allowed us to streamline the process before other Therapet dogs could visit other hospitals within NHS Grampian.
To allow us to undertake this pilot several meetings took place with Eleanor Murray, Unit Nurse Manager and Carole Ledingham, who have been pivotal in taking this forward and gaining agreement from Senior Management to allow Ben to visit Ward 204.
It was identified that the Stoke Ward would be an ideal Ward to undertake and evaluate the pilot study demonstrating to patients/relatives/medical staff the benefits of Therapet dog visits.
Thanks to Sheena Paterson, Charge Nurse, and all the staff within Ward 204, the pilot study proved extremely successful, with the results showing the presence and contact with Ben led to a decrease in anxiety for patients as well as an increase in emotional and physical wellbeing.
Ben has continued to visit the ward since completing the pilot study every fortnight to the delight of patients, relatives and staff who all look forward to his visits as does Ben, whose tail never stops wagging from the moment he enters the hospital until the time he leaves. The medical and nursing staff have all seen the extraordinary results Ben has had on patients and their relatives.
Due to the success of the pilot study, ARI now have numerous Therapet dogs visiting throughout NHS Grampian hospitals.
Ben has now reached the grand old age of 10 and we had to make the difficult decision to retire him from visiting Ward 204. On a positive note Ben has a younger brother, Kobe, who is now 11 months old, who we hope will carry on where Ben has left off and will start visiting Ward 204 within the next few months.
Please look out for Ben during the months of August/September when STV will be broadcasting a series of five programmes entitled “RBS: Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes” commencing on 15 August which will be shown every Friday evening. Ben will appear in one of these programmes under the category “Hero Animal of the Year” which will include details on how to vote for your “Hero”. When you see Ben you only have seven days to vote for him. Ben says your votes will be gratefully received!
Ben has also been asked to a star studded ceremony at the end of September which will be broadcast on STV later this year. Please look out for an update on how it all went in the Upfront Magazine in the November/December edition.
The Therapet service is a voluntary service provided by Canine Concern Scotland Trust, a charity formed in 1988 to help dogs and their owners, and to improve their position in present-day society. Its aims are to:
Provide an educational service to promote responsible dog ownership in Scotland by visiting schools to reach dog owners of the future, or to give talks, supply useful literature and advice to any interested Community Groups.
Establish and manage a service to be known as "Therapet".
Further the role and care of dogs in Scotland, either directly or in co-operation with Government, Local Authorities and other organisations in Scotland, whether charitable or not.
Promote research into the therapeutic value of dogs to patients or others isolated from normal association with pets.
If you have, or know of a dog who you think would make a good Therapet please contact Canine Concern Scotland Trust as they are always looking for dogs and volunteer handlers.
Words by Alison Mundie Therapet Volunteer in Aberdeen