PAT Stories

Gerry Ochojna & Reika

One child tells Reika her worries and says she always feels brighter afterwards.”

Gerry Ochojna lives in Nairn in the Scottish Highlands and owns a nine-year-old Labrador called Reika. They have been a registered PAT Team for a year and visit Dalneigh Primary School and Drummond Special Education School, both in Inverness.

“There’s an amazing young man at the additional needs school and Reika has helped him with his anxiety about new situations,” Gerry explains. “When he ‘looks after’ Reika, he forgets his own worries and is able to enjoy new experiences.”

Children at the primary school love Reika too. “There’s one little girl there who can spot Reika across the playground and moves at lightning speed to help me walk her inside. The teacher often tells me that the half hour we’re there is the quietest 30 minutes of the week.”

Reika listens to students reading and helps to boost their confidence. “The improvement of some of these children is immense. And the excitement of everyone when we arrive each week is just hilarious. It’s difficult to describe the feelings of joy that our visits bring – to kids, staff and to myself.”

Smiles and laughter
Gerry also takes Reika to Gordonstoun boarding school in Moray. “As a PAT Dog, she helps to calm the children and young adults in the healthcare centre, and they enjoy taking her for walks alongside me in the beautiful grounds. One child tells Reika her worries and says she always feels brighter afterwards.”

The dedicated duo have certainly made an impact as a PAT Team. “The smiles and laughter that always happen, wherever we are, is heart-warming to see,” smiles Gerry. “We get such a positive reaction from everyone. Reika is so calm and loves to be stroked and talked to. She interacts so well with all the kids and never reacts to loud noises or sudden movements.

“I watch Reika lying on a mat on the floor with children, which she seems to love. I think the warmth of her body, and her heart beat, calms those around her.”

A special bond
Reika is not only a special PAT Dog, she’s a special family pet too. “Reika is a retired gun dog and has an amazing bond with my autistic son,” says Gerry. “We initially went to get one of Reika’s puppies for my son. However, when the breeder saw how they bonded, he offered us the mum, Reika, as she was due to retire. They have been inseparable since.”

Gerry adds that it’s a huge privilege to be part of Pets As Therapy. “I find volunteering extremely rewarding and I feel very privileged to be in this unique situation. To see how Reika brings joy and calm to each child is just wonderful. The people that we meet are always delighted to be with Reika.”


We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

You can find more info here

Follow us on social media:

Back to Listing

Other recent stories

8 May 2024

Tim Robinson & Betsy

Residents at a South East London care home have fallen in love with a gentle cocker spaniel, who visits with her owner Tim.

16 April 2024

Gerry Ochojna & Reika

PAT Dog Reika has young fans at three schools in the Scottish Highlands and is helping them to forget their worries.

12 March 2024

Isabel Serafim & Mr London

Isabel's PAT Cat loves meeting patients and health professionals at a London hospital.

28 February 2024

Johanne Picken & Ness

PAT Dog Ness, a retired racing greyhound, works her animal magic on residents at a care home in Johnstone, Renfrewshire.

5 December 2023

Chris Roberts & Jimmy

Jimmy the greyhound is not the only PAT Dog at HMP YOI Parc – Gus and Doug spend time with prisoners too.

7 November 2023

Josie Hughes & Benjen

PAT Cat Benjen, a Maine Coon, is a big hit with the young people he meets at two CAMHS units in Northampton

25 October 2023

Sue Beeson & Boo

Pupils at a Kidderminster primary school love their visits from Boo — and Sue says volunteering helps her deal with dementia too.

6 September 2023

Roger Hammett & Kimmy

Roger and Kimmy visit University Hospital Southampton and also two secure mental health units for adult offenders.

9 August 2023

Maggie Fogarty & Bonnie

Maggie and nine-year-old Bonnie visit a care home in a scenic spot in Cornwall – and everyone loves the special Cockapoo.

18 July 2023

Rachel Williamson & Mona

A PAT Volunteer from Rothwell and her affectionate Staffordshire Bull terrier are regular visitors to a local primary school.

7 June 2023

Hannah Colbourn & Olive & Benji

A PAT Volunteer, who has owned four PAT Dogs, Hannah shares her story and pays tribute to Todd.

2 May 2023

Nick Belson & Ghillie

Nick and his dog Ghillie spread cheer among care home residents, who treasure their regular visits.

4 April 2023

Martin Rodker & Winnie

Martin and Winnie visit a residential care home near Luton, where one lady has written a poem about the special PAT Dog.

29 March 2023

Libby Bowles & Pip

Libby and her PAT Dog Pip enjoy making friends at school – when Pip isn't off having adventures and appearing on TV!

8 March 2023

Julia Saunders & Chilli, Bean & Ronnie

Julia takes one dog to a school, the other to a care home, and a third has passed its assessment.

21 February 2023

Keith Poultney & Bella

Keith and his black Labrador Bella are bringing joy to Ukrainian families who are currently living in the UK.

8 February 2023

Andy Price & Lola

Andy and his PAT Dog Lola are regular visitors to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, cheering up patients on the wards.

29 January 2023

Rachael Sones & Arlo

Rachael is an Assistant Voluntary Area Co-ordinator. Along with her dog Arlo, they make weekly visits to a school in Hampshire.