Pets as Therapy
Whilst I like cats I freely admit that I prefer dogs. Cats aren’t so loyal nor so cuddly (unless it is meal times), although many people will say that this is completely wrong and their cats are wonderful. I am sure that they are, but I am strictly a dog lover.
Dogs are truly loyal, they give unconditional love and are very faithful. I have yet to meet a cat that greeted me at the door with a waggy tail and lots of licks! Nor can they retrieve a ball, well actually they aren’t interested! And if you are feeling down your dog will pick up on your mood and they are there by your side despite getting wet with all your tears.
Dogs have been used for different jobs and play many important roles around the world. Whether Dogs for the Blind or deaf people they play a large part in their owner’s lives. There are also dogs for alerting their owners if they are about to have an epileptic fit.
I have just read about one who is trained to sniff food if it contains nuts because the owner’s child is allergic to them. All of them play an important role in helping give their owners more independence in life.
Then there are the Police dogs who play a multitude of tasks. If I was a burglar I would certainly give myself up if faced by a highly trained police dog. In fact after being burgled twice (despite alarms) the policeman told me the best deterrent for intruders was a dog, no matter how large or small!
And let’s not forget the sniffer dogs which are used for finding drugs in houses, airports, bags or even concealed on people. We also see dogs in Afghanistan who find hidden bombs, so saving the lives of our troops. The bond between dogs and handlers is so strong that men have been known to shed a little tear when they have to go home. The dogs also provide a moral boost for the troops, especially those who may have had to leave their beloved pet at home.
I can’t remember exactly where I saw an appeal for dogs to join PAT , or Pet are Therapy as it is better known. It is a charity started in 1983 and provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments.
The charity also provide animal assisted therapy (AAT) working with stroke patients and people with dog phobias. They also run Read2dogs a programme that helps children in classroom settings improve their reading ability by helping to increase their confidence and enjoyment of reading.
Today there are over 5,000 active PAT dogs and a smaller number of PAT cats working throughout the UK. Every week visiting PAT teams bring comfort and companionship to thousands of people, both young and old, by giving them the opportunity to stroke, hold and talk to one of these calm and friendly dogs.
I had a wonderful Jack Russell called Jessie and I decided to try and see if we could pass the tests to see if she was suitable PAT dog. She had to prove that she was happy with being patted and not be overly worried about having their paws, ears or tail handled by a stranger. The dogs must also take a food treat without snatching from a hand Jessie certainly had no problem with that!
There are other assessment tests and I am pleased to say that Jessie passed with flying colours. Volunteers give their time freely to the Charity, paying £19.00 annual subscription for the identity badges and for the dogs jacket. There are no set requirements on how often volunteers undertake visits on behalf of PAT. Any breed of dog from Chihuahuas to Irish Wolfhounds are welcome as long as they pass the test.
Jessie and I were asked to visit a nursing home near us. The residents were thrilled with our visits. Many had to give up their pets when they moved into the home and loved petting her while telling me about their own dogs.
Unfortunately they were also pleased to give Jessie some of their biscuits. In the end I had to ask them to stop a she was getting a bit chubby! One of our favourite ladies was bedridden and so I would lift Jessie on to the bed where she could stroke her while she told me all about her three dogs that she had to leave behind.
Unfortunately Jessie died and I got another Jack Russell called Juba. She was a rescue dog and so is very nervous about meeting strangers which meant she could not be a PAT dog.
But my involvement with PAT was so rewarding, I can still see the smiles that greeted us each time we appeared. If you have a spare hour or two in your week perhaps you might think about joining the Charity?
You can find all their details on the Internet by visiting their site www.petsastherapy.org, they are always looking for volunteers.
Written by: Jane Buckle