PAT Stories

Hannah Colbourn & Olive & Benji

Dogs don’t discriminate. They treat each new person they meet with the same happy but gentle enthusiasm. Having that kind of connection with a friendly dog is something that stays with you.” 

Hannah Colbourn from Norwich has been a PAT Volunteer since 2017, and currently has two PAT Dogs – Olive and Benji. They visit a care home, a John Lewis department store and also a local junior school.

“Historically with my four dogs we’ve done just about everything,” Hannah smiles. “Dog phobia work alongside child psychologists, childhood bereavement camps, university student visits, preschools, high schools, scout groups, special needs schools and lots more. We’ve even represented Pets As Therapy at the House of Commons and at Crufts.”

Olive, and another retired PAT Dog Peggy, are both rescue dogs from Portugal. “Olive is an eight-year-old Galgo and is very quiet and gentle. She’s an affectionate dog who wiggles her whole body when she’s happy and gently nudges you with her long nose if you stop stroking her. She’s the perfect size for care home visits as residents don’t have to bend down to stroke her.”

Peggy, now 13, also used to visit care homes. “She’s at her happiest when she’s being cuddled and is the perfect lap dog. She makes everyone feel special with her world-class cuddles.”

Also part of the family is Benji, a 10-year-old Chihuahua cross that was fostered by Hannah during lockdown. “He never left. He made us smile so much during those dark days that we felt we had to share him.”

Sharing their love
At the school, as well as their Read2Dog duties, the dogs have been used to calm down children who were upset. “We’ve also helped mediate a falling out between two friends,” says Hannah. “And I’ve had parents tell me that their children no longer have to cross the road when they see a dog coming. They’re not frightened.”

In care homes, relatives tell Hannah that their loved ones look forward to their visits and talk about it for days afterwards. “We even had one resident, who hadn’t chosen to leave her room for many weeks, venture out to say hello. Residents can be in happy tears when at the receiving end of a super-duper Peggy hug.

“Dogs don’t discriminate. They treat each new person they meet with the same happy but gentle enthusiasm. Having that kind of connection with a friendly, kind dog is something that stays with you.”

A tribute to Todd
There’s also another special dog, a black ex-racing greyhound called Todd, that Hannah reflects “will always be my dog of a lifetime”. He sadly passed away earlier this year, aged 12. “I adopted Todd in August 2016 and he was a gentleman from the very first minute he walked through our door. Unfailingly polite, gentle and kind, he was never any trouble, never made any noise and spent a good portion of his time snoozing. We just couldn’t believe our luck and fell head over heels with him and the wonderful world of greyhounds.”

Hannah was working at the University of East Anglia at the time. “One day I saw PAT Dogs coming in to visit students at exam time and I knew Todd would be perfect in that role. From day one he never put a paw wrong. It was apparent that he was far too special to keep to ourselves, so after six months he had a Pets As Therapy assessment and, well, the rest is history.”

Hannah and her family feel privileged to have shared their lives with Todd for over six years. “I owe him so much. Not just because he was such a good boy, but for the path my life took once he was in it. Without doubt, becoming a Pets As Therapy volunteer is the best thing I’ve ever done. It brings me immense joy and happiness, and it’s so rewarding. I’ve made so many lovely friends along the way. And I get to share it all with my best four-legged friends.”

We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

You can find more info here

 

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