PAT Stories

Chris Roberts & Jimmy

“Jimmy helps prisoners to focus on managing their emotions better and provides a period of calmness in a very challenging environment”

Chris Roberts, from Mid Glamorgan in Wales, works at HMP YOI Parc, a men’s prison and young offenders institution in Bridgend. Chris is also a PAT Volunteer with his four-year-old greyhound Jimmy, who attends the prison most days and visits the wings to meet anyone who has requested the company of a PAT Dog.

“Jimmy can provide hope and happiness,” Chris explains. “He helps prisoners to think more positively and this can improve their work ethic. Being with Jimmy can reduce a person’s anxiety and stress levels. It helps prisoners to focus on managing their emotions better and provides a period of calmness in a very challenging environment.”

Jimmy has now been a PAT Dog for 12 months. “He’s so affectionate, gentle and loving,” smiles Chris. “He is a big presence and popular with all the staff and inmates throughout the prison. He leans into people when he wants a hug. Nothing ever phases him.”

Chris has rescued greyhounds from the Greyhound Trust for the past 15 years and had read an article about the breed working in a prison with offenders. Their temperament is so good and calm, and they’re easy to handle. “It’s a pleasure to share Jimmy with prisoners. They always look forward to meeting him.”

Mark and Gus
Gus, a cocker spaniel/golden retriever cross, is another PAT Dog at HMP Parc, owned by Mark Brayshaw. “He’s just turned two and everyone thinks he’s so handsome. Gus has a fabulous temperament and brings smiles to the faces of everyone he meets.”

Mark decided to become a volunteer with Pets As Therapy after hearing a prisoner speak about a visit from a dog. “He told me how much better he felt after spending time with a PAT Dog,” says Mark. “I saw the charity at work within the prison and wanted to contribute. I find volunteering so rewarding. I’ve been here 26 years and I see the difference a short amount of time with a dog makes to those suffering from mental health or just missing home.

“Gus has such a positive impact on the prisoners. Many of they say they miss their own pets more than they miss their families. You see hardened criminals turn into big softies when they interact with the dogs. It gives them a sense of reality as most of them haven’t seen dogs for a long period of time.”

Nicola and Doug
As well as Jimmy and Gus, there’s a third PAT Dog called Doug, a black Labrador who spends time with his owner Nicola in the healthcare department. He has regular interaction with a prisoner who works there as a cleaner.

“The man has said that he looks forward to seeing Doug on the days he attends,” says Nicola. “My PAT Dog also meets and greets patients attending appointments. Some admit that petting the dog helps them to relax if they’re feeling a bit nervous.”

Nicola goes on to say that people relish the physical contact with a dog. “Most of the people Doug comes into contact with don’t experience being touched or touching others when in prison. That’s why they benefit so much from stroking a dog, and the dog reciprocates the attention by rolling over to be fussed and stroked some more.

“One particular prisoner has enjoyed the PAT visits so much and developed such a close relationship with the dog that he hopes to work with dogs on release and maybe own a dog of his own one day. He also has the dog present during difficult counselling sessions and has given feedback that the dog’s presence really helps him to relax and get the most out of the sessions.”

Nicola adds, “People always seem more relaxed after spending time petting the dogs. They smile and say that it makes them feel more connected with the outside world.”


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