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Canine Companions at Abbeyfield Ballachulish

Residents in Abbeyfield, Ballachulish have had the benefit over many years, of the Thera-pet Visiting Scheme under which Mrs. Jean Coke and her 2 Labrador Retrievers Cassie and Trudy, visit the establishment on a fortnightly basis, although she only takes one dog with her on each visit!

The Therapet Visiting Scheme is administered by the Canine Concern Scotland Trust, a charity based in Edinburgh, and seeks volunteers with suitable pets to regularly visit hospitals, residential homes, day centers and special needs schools. The prison system in Scotland also benefits from the scheme and there have been 2 new recent initiatives – namely helping students to relax and reduce stress around exam times, and also helping children who lack confidence with learning to read.

Therapets require health, behavior and temperament assessment by a vet before being enrolled in the scheme and the owner requires character references and membership of the PVG scheme (previously known as “Disclosure Scotland”)

Jean has been a member of the scheme for over 20 years, visiting both the old Abbeyfield Ballachulish, and Glencoe Hospital with 6 different dogs during that time – 5 Labradors and 1 Collie. Her current Labradors are 6 yr. old Cassie – a black beauty whose specialty is offering “paws”, and Trudy who, at 8 years old, charms the residents by putting her head on their knees, making herself available for “patting”! Jean comments that the pleasure demonstrated by the residents during the visits is palpable. On a more scientific note, research has shown that the mere action of stroking a pet, slows down the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and benefits coronary artery disease.

Jean visits the bedroom residents first, and hears stories about their own pet memories; she then takes the dog to the lounge where she visits the residents who are keen to pat the dog. The dog is on a special “Therapet lead” throughout the visit Jean tries to avoid tea and coffee times, as the cakes, biscuits and crumbs, prove very attractive to even well-behaved Labradors!

Jean is supported by the Canine Concern Scotland Trust who produce a quarterly newsletter – new projects are high-lighted, new entrants to the scheme are listed, and unfortunately the death of dogs previously in the scheme are announced. There is even a “Therapet of the Year” competition in which scheme members can nominate a four-legged friend who has worked particularly hard at being a true “Therapet” throughout the year.

There can be no doubt about the benefits of the scheme; “once a dog-lover, always a dog lover” and we thank Jean and other Thera-pet owners for the pleasure that they give to us, when we can no longer care for our own pets.

This article appeared in the Abbeyfield newsletter Ballachulish

With kind permission of Dominic Duffy Office Manager

Picture ~ "Therapets Cassie & Trudy"

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