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Borders pets are the purr-fect therapy

THEY'VE been helping vulnerable people across the Borders for years.

Now Therapet, a visiting service that provides four-legged therapy through cats and dogs, is on the look-out for more volunteers.

The initiative, run by the Canine Concern for Scotland Trust, helps the elderly, children with disabilities, as well as those who have suffered heart attacks, strokes or high blood pressure.

Therapets and their owners regularly visit hospitals, day centres and nursing homes, as well as special needs schools, where the pets provide companionship to animal lovers who aren’t able to care for a pet full-time. Therapet’s Borders representative, Marion Livingston, stresses that more people are beginning to understand the value of pet therapy and therefore increased demands need to be met.

She said: “We urgently need more volunteers with happy, healthy pets to register as Therapets, and who have time to make regular – weekly, fortnightly or monthly – visits to provide cheer and comfort for the elderly, children, and those with disabilities deprived of everyday contact with pets.

“We look for dogs that are well behaved, have friendly and outgoing temperaments and love having a fuss made of them. Pets need to be healthy, well groomed, wormed regularly, and kept under complete control by their owner volunteers throughout their visits.” Therapets can be of any size and breed, as long as they have a steady and happy temperament, are at least one-year-old, and have been with the owner for at least six months.

Scientific evidence has shown that pet therapy can help patients suffering from chronic ill-health, as well as comfort those who are anxious or depressed.

The simple acts of stroking or holding a cat or dog can reduce the risk of heart attacks, alleviate stress levels, reduce blood pressure and even blood glucose in diabetics.

Glynis Sawyers, who has two Therapets and regularly visits the Riverside care home in Selkirk, said: “So many residents in care homes have had their own dogs in the past and miss them terribly, so to have a nice, friendly dog means the world to them.

“Wherever I go with either Peggy or Cleo everyone immediately has a smile on their face, and the staff say the residents are happy when they know that it is our day to visit.” Audrey Laycock, who visits several Borders General Hospital units, added: “Most of my visiting is to the dementia assessment unit where staff tell me that some patients are calmer and more relaxed after seeing the dogs, and our visits give patients something to look forward to and to focus on.” In addition to the Therapets, the CCST promotes responsible dog ownership in Scotland through school visits to reach the dog owners of the future, and offers presentations to interested community groups with the aim of pulling in more volunteers.

Picture; Volunteer Glynis Sawyers & Therapets Peggy & Cleo

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