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Therapets bring smiles to faces of youngsters in city hospitals

JADEN Duff races down the hospital corridor to greet his visitor.

From the wide smile on his face, you wouldn’t know the five-year-old is in constant discomfort, his face heavily blistered by eczema. He wastes no time in getting down on the floor to cuddle Golden Retriever, Skye.

As a registered Therapet, it’s her job to cheer up young patients suffering from cancer and other illnesses at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.

It may be the first time a child has smiled since they were admitted to hospital according to nurses, who say Bert and Skye are, “treasured members of the hospital family.”

Staff stop to pat the six-year-old dog who remains calm as buzzers go off in the single rooms.

Jaden’s mum Jasmine Duff, 20, said: “He’s in and out of hospital a lot so he’s met her before and he just loves her.

“It’s hard when they are stuck in a hospital room.”

The Therapet service is run by the Canine Concert Scotland Trust, a charity, which also works with children and adults who have a phobia of dogs.

Skye’s owner Bert Muir, has been a volunteer for more than 11 years and this year received NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Chairman Award for his efforts.

As well as taking Skye into the children’s hospital every two weeks, Bert also takes her for therapeutic visits to patients being treated in mental health units at Gartnavel Royal and Stobhill hospitals.

Research is well established into the therapeutic benefits of pets. In particular dogs can reduce stress, anxiety and depression as well as easing loneliness and encouraging exercise.

Some studies have shown that someone who has already suffered a heart attack is much less likely to have another if they have a pet.

The only adverse incident that Therapet volunteers have had so far in hospitals is a dog sweeping a vase off a low table with a happy, wagging tail.

Bert, who is married to Pauline, has another Golden Retriever called Kirra and credits his pets for helping him recover from a serious illness.

“To me, it’s special here,” says Bert. “Every single child smiles from ear to ear. Everyone loves Skye, she’s very well known. “In the beginning there was a bit of resistance from hospitals. Some of the senior staff weren’t so keen.

“It’s a support for the families too. Parents are often desperate to talk to someone. You get all the stories, they open their hearts. “I’ve had Retrievers for 39 years. They are great dogs.

Words & Pictures Courtesy of Glasgow Evening Times

Words: Caroline Wilson

This article appeared in the Glasgow Evening Times 5th January 2017

Link to item at Glasgow Evening Times

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