PAT Stories

Julia Saunders & Chilli, Bean & Ronnie

“The difference Chilli makes to those with dementia is quite astonishing. She has a calming effect on those who otherwise might be agitated and distressed.”

Julia Saunders from Staffordshire has fostered dogs for the RSPCA for many years, and when Bean and Chilli came to stay with her, she knew she wanted to adopt them and start a volunteering journey.

“Bean and Chilli were both part of a cruelty case,” Julia explains. “They were a bonded pair and could not be separated, and as it turns out, me and my family couldn’t be separated from them either.”

It wasn’t long before Julia realised her new recruits were very special. “It soon became very clear they would both make wonderful therapy dogs, despite their sad start in life. They were happy and affectionate – Chilli with her intuitive gentleness and Ben with his sunny personality and demand for tummy tickles. I knew they would have a lot to give others and that’s when I applied to Pets As Therapy.”

Along comes Ronnie
Not long after, Julia got another call from the RSPCA and two dogs became three, or rather five! “I was asked if I could foster another Shih Tzu puppy called Ronnie. What with Bean and Chilli, and another two elderly cockapoos that we look after, it was a full household.’

Sadly for Ronnie, his trial at a new potential home didn’t work out. “It seemed like fate that he had chosen us, so here he stayed.” And Ronnie is now also a PAT Dog.

Beaming smiles for Bean
“When I go on a PAT visit with one of the three amigos, the other two keep each other company at home,” Julia smiles. “Bean visits children at an infant school every week. They need a bit of extra support, and Bean has made a huge difference. The pupils really look forward to his visits and it is a joy to see the progress they make with Bean by their side.”

Chilling with Chilli
Chilli, being a calm, gentle girl, visits a care home every week, where the residents adore her. “The difference Chilli makes to those with dementia is quite astonishing. She has a calming effect on those who otherwise might be agitated and distressed. For others she’s a reminder of past pets and brings back warm memories that we can talk about. For me, it’s so rewarding and actually a privilege to visit the residents.”

Julia talks about the “unconditional love that only a dog, or in our case a dog quintet, can give you. Our household is a little bit crazier now, but certainly richer (not in the monetary sense), and I have the privilege of sharing them to help others. It doesn’t get any better than that.”



We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

You can find more info here


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