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We’re celebrating Volunteers’ Week

This week (3-9 June) is national Volunteers’ Week — charities up and down the country are celebrating the incredible contribution that volunteers make to our society. At Pets As Therapy we are celebrating as well — without the dedication and support of all our volunteers, including visiting PAT Volunteers, VACs, Assessors and Trustees, we simply couldn’t do our work. Thank you!

As part of our celebrations, this week we are putting the ‘Spotlight on’ some of our amazing volunteers to find out more about where they visit, who they meet and why they enjoy being a volunteer.

 

DAY 7

Loki
From Christchurch, Dorset
PAT Cat since Dec 2023

Tell us about yourself
I am a Maine Coon cross, and will be two next month.

Where do you visit?
Along with my mum Louise, I visit Wickmeads care home in Bournemouth every other week. We meet the residents who live there, the people who look after them and sometimes also their relatives.

Anywhere else?
I also recently attended a local library event — there was a queue of children and their parents all waiting to see me. I’ve been asked to go back in the summer.

Do you enjoy being a PAT Pet?
Yes. I like making people smile and laugh. Sometimes someone isn’t having a good day and I sit on their lap and give them cuddles. It makes them feel a bit better.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
I like to watch birds out of the window, go for walks in the garden, play with my sister Freya and cuddle my mum. I also love playing with my toys, eating treats and having lots and lots of cat naps.

 

DAY 6

Cubby
From Lochaber, Scottish Highlands
PAT Dog since Sept 2023

Tell us about yourself
I am a Shih Tzu and I’m 22 months old. My name Cubby is short for Cubby QiKo Bear.

Where do you visit?
My owner Debbie takes me to places around Fort William. We go to the renal unit at NHS Highland Belford Hospital, the Montrose day centre in Fort William and also Moss Park, an independent care home. I’d like to perhaps visit schools too one day as I love children.

Who do you meet?
We spend time with patients, clients, residents and staff at the venues and they’re all very kind and welcoming. Some residents have visitors when we’re there which is fabby too.

Why do you enjoy being a PAT Pet?
I love meeting people, having cuddles and hearing about people’s own animal companions. I also just like it when people smile and look happy. If someone is sad, I hope simply being there is helping them to feel better. I’m quite a clown and will undo people’s shoelaces! I’m sometimes called a ‘character’. My nickname is the Seawok as I love the sea and I look a bit like an Ewok!

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
I love going for walks in the forests or by the lochs. I do zoomies and paddle about and I now own a beach ball, which is fun. I visit the Glencoe boat club with my human too, and recently went out in a skiff, though I didn’t have to row. I’ve been on the Waverley Paddle Steamer and a yacht. I also like getting my hair done every six week or so. It’s a real treat.

 

DAY 5

Merryn
From Rushmere St Andrew, Suffolk
PAT Volunteer & Assessor since 2018

Tell us about yourself
I am a PAT Volunteer with my black Labrador Polly, who’s eight. I’m also an accredited PAT Assessor.

What does your role involve?
My role involves making sure a dog and its owner are both suitable to be a PAT Team. I’ll talk to them about the sort of establishment they would like to visit and answer any queries they may have.

What do you enjoy about being an Assessor?
I enjoy meeting a variety of dog breeds and chatting to their owners. I like to find out what made them want to become part of our wonderful PAT family.

What’s so special about PAT?
PAT is such a worthwhile charity. It’s great to see that dogs have the ability to connect with people, providing stimulation, calmness and comfort in all sorts of situations.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
I love long dog walks, gardening and playing (not very good) golf. And then I’ll put my feet up with a good book.

 

DAY 4

Lauren
From Glasgow

PAT Volunteer since Sept 2023

Tell us about yourself
I volunteer at Stobhill Care Home in the north of Glasgow. I visit regularly with my PAT Dog Olive. She’s a long-haired Chihuahua who will soon be four.

Who do you meet on your visits?
We spend most of our time meeting the care home residents. Olive loves sitting on people’s knees and hearing how beautiful she is. We also spend time with the staff at the home, as well as family members who have popped in to say hello.

What do you enjoy about being a PAT Volunteer?
Both Olive and I enjoy seeing all the residents’ faces light up when we arrive. We also love hearing the stories of dogs they owned when they were younger. One resident even sings to Olive.

What’s so special about PAT?
I love that we bring comfort to family members when they see their loved ones full of joy just from my presence. I also beam with pride when I tell others what it’s like being a PAT Volunteer. And I try not to notice when residents sneak Olive a biscuit.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
Olive’s favourite past time is napping in the sun — she’d do it all day every day if she could. And I like visiting cafes and markets at the weekend. Sometimes Olive even gets treated to a puppuccino!

 

DAY 3

Jo
From Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

PAT Volunteer from 2019

Tell us about your PAT Pet
I volunteer with Meg, a small cockerpoo who is nine years old.

Where do you visit?
We visit a rehabilitation unit for patients recovering from brain injuries at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath. We’re always greeted with open arms and Meg has a great fuss made of her by members of staff before we even start on the wards. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists also schedule us in to help them — stroking Meg has proved to be an excellent way for patients to exercise paralysed limbs.

Do you also visit a hospice?
Yes, we go along to the wellbeing centre at St Peter & St James Hospice in Wivelsfield Green, where outpatients meet up for a coffee and a chat. As soon as we walk into the room everyone’s faces light up.

Why do you enjoy being a PAT Volunteer?
I really enjoy sharing Meg with others. Spending time with my little dog brings people such obvious joy and she can help them on their road to recovery or simply be there if someone is going through a very difficult time.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
I thoroughly enjoy playing lawn bowls at my local club and both like being in the garden —Meg loves having balls thrown for her! I also thoroughly enjoy my daily walks with Meg where I meet up with many friends.

 

DAY 2

Dave
From Church Hougham
First became VAC in 2010

Tell us about yourself
I live in a village between Folkestone and Dover and I volunteer with my wife Sarah. We both first became VACs back in 2010 — we also passed the Assessor training at that time. We volunteered as VACs for three years and recently I took on the role again as support in the South East is a bit sparse.

Why do you enjoy being a VAC?
I like to think the VAC role is close support for both new and old volunteers, someone who understands the local area and its vagaries. I mostly enjoy giving help and advice to new volunteers.

Do you visit as well?
We currently visit Charlton CofE School with our two-year-old Leonberger, who’s called Rosa. We work with their SENCo team to help children with learning and communication difficulties. Rosa is our third PAT visiting Leonberger. We also have a Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen who is 12 and a retired PAT Dog.

What’s so special about PAT?
When a simple visit from a dog or cat brings such surprise and joy. It can turn into a forward step breakthrough in physiotherapy, the breaking down of a communication barrier for a shy child or a memory reviver for a dementia patient. We’ve had first-hand experience of all of these.

Why should other pet owners join PAT too?
Others should first come and see what our visits can do. I think owners with the right pets would get a great deal of pleasure and achievement from visiting.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
I shoot with a local archery club, shooting target and field archery with traditional English longbow, I've done the sport for over 25 years. More recently I've taken up target pistol and rifle shooting with my local rifle club. We also own a mobile pet store and attend local obedience/flyball/agility and pet shows.

 

DAY 1
Andrea
From Northamptonshire
PAT Volunteer since Nov 2022

Tell us about yourself
I volunteer with Brody, my six-year-old PAT Dog who’s a border collie/German shepherd mix. People who meet him sometimes think he might be part sighthound. We’ve often wondered this too. Maybe it’s time for a pet DNA test!

Where do you visit?
Brody and I visit Whitehills Primary School in Northampton. We go there once a week and meet schoolchildren and the lovely teachers as part of PAT’s Read2Dogs scheme.

What do you enjoy about being a PAT Volunteer?
I work full-time with a flexible working pattern, which means I can use the first hour of a Friday to volunteer. I left teaching several years ago, but missed being in a school. This is a great way to be back in a learning environment.

What’s so special about PAT?
Volunteering once a week is a really lovely end to my working week as I get to see the joy that Brody brings to students and staff. When we first started visiting, a few of the children were very shy and a bit scared of Brody. Fast forward a year and they have grown much more confident with reading and being around a dog. I’m so pleased Brody and I can play a part in that progress.

Do you know other volunteers?
Yes, in addition to my school placement PAT Volunteers can also join group walks with other volunteers in the area, organised by our VAC. We like that there’s a social element of volunteering too.

Why should pet owners join PAT?
I’ve found it so fulfilling to be part of a community. My dog has a loving, gentle and calm temperament and to share that with other people makes me feel very proud of him. It’s given Brody a real sense of purpose and he knows exactly where he is going once I get the PAT bandana out.

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?
We love to go hiking and camping whenever we can.

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