PAT Stories

Nick Belson & Ghillie

I feel our goal is to bring a little bit of sunshine and happiness to every resident’s day. To have a chat with them and Ghillie, share a few stories, make people smile. That is a great joy and privilege.” 

For the past six years, Nick Belson and his PAT Dog Gilbert, a nine-year-old Tibetan Terrier who is known as Ghillie, have been visiting The Ridings, a care home in Banbury. “On a typical visit we’ll be in the main communal lounge, where residents are able to pet Ghillie and have a chat with me,” says Nick. “Sometimes just stroking a dog can be very relaxing and calming. Ghillie likes to sit on people’s feet and this type of contact can also be very soothing and restful - a sort of homely feeling. Some residents like to give Ghillie a treat, and some like to brush or stroke him.”

Many enjoy chatting about the dogs they owned in the past. “Recalling memories of childhood pets can have a very positive effect and lead to many happy and fond stories. Residents talk about their favourite dog or cat when they were growing up. This often leads to their life story and where they come from. One resident I currently visit, remembers riding on her bike as a little girl through the village where I live at the moment. Her face ‘lights up’ when she fondly recalls this memory.”

Nick also remembers one Italian gentleman who suffered with his mental health, but always enjoyed Ghillie’s company. “He often became agitated, but every week when we arrived, his face would light up and his personality would transform just for the 10 minutes of our visit. Although we had very few words between us, I know Ghillie brought some hope and light into his life for a short while. He passed away several years ago. Hopefully we brought some joy to his final days.”

Dementia care
The PAT Team also visit a home that provides specialist dementia care. “Every volunteer probably has their own reasons for deciding to be part of the Pets As Therapy family,” Nick continues. “For me, being able to visit a dementia care home has particular meaning. My father suffered with dementia towards the end of his life and after he sadly passed away, I’d been thinking about volunteering to support people with dementia.

“When I met Carole Galloway, a PAT Area Co-ordinator, while out walking Ghillie, it seemed like serendipity. Carole told me she thought Ghillie would ‘make a great PAT Dog’. I didn’t know about Pets As Therapy, but I went home, did some research and registered to become a volunteer immediately. The rest is history.”

The love of dogs
Summing up his volunteering experience, Nick says: “I feel our goal is to bring a little bit of sunshine and happiness to the resident’s day. To have a chat with them and Ghillie, share a few stories, make people smile. That is a great joy and privilege.

“Recently one resident who we’ve got to know well summed things up beautifully. ‘It’s not really therapy Nick, is it?’ she said. ‘It’s all about the love of a little dog’.”


We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

You can find more info here


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