PAT Stories

Sue Beeson & Boo

“Being a PAT Volunteer in a primary school is not only a great privilege, but it’s also helped me deal with my dementia.”

Sue Beeson from Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, along with her seven-year-old Irish Doodle Boo, registered as a PAT Team at the beginning of 2023. And the pair are now loving their regular visits to St Catherine’s Church of England Primary School in Kidderminster, where they support the wellbeing of both children and staff.

“After retiring from a career in education, I immersed myself in my hobbies of painting, gardening, looking after our dogs and learning to play the harp,” Sue smiles. “This blissful life of self-indulgence lasted for about 15 years until about 10 months ago when I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in its early stages. I call it ‘Big A’ and think of it as a new companion on my life’s journey.

“I’d never heard of Pets As Therapy, but I had visited the school before as part of a wellbeing project. I took Boo and my small harp and our visit was such a success that everyone agreed we could become regular visitors. That’s when I got in contact with the charity. The whole PAT assessment process was interesting, informative and enjoyable, and I was thrilled when Boo, with her placid and cheerful attitude to life, passed with flying colours. Fortunately, I also passed as her handler!”

Comfort and joy
Sue says that the PAT visits have given her a valuable sense of purpose. “What Boo and I are doing is genuinely appreciated by the staff and pupils. It’s made ‘Big A’ seem a less significant part of my life, too. Boo is such a favourite with the children and staff that their enjoyment of our visits brings me great joy. She makes everyone smile. Her tail starts wagging as soon as we enter the school grounds.”

Sometimes children read to Boo or they’ll show her their work. “She lies down quietly and enjoys a cuddle if someone is feeling upset or anxious. Boo can turn tears or anger to smiles within minutes, sometimes even seconds.”

When invited by teachers, Sue will visit classrooms and she’s often seen in the playground at break times, as the children like to walk with Boo. “I hand out ‘Boo’ bookmarks, which are treasured by pupils, who are so proud when they get one. I’ve also bought a little paw stamp that I can put on their work – even the older children love a Boo stamp on their books.”

And when there’s a spare moment or two, Sue will play her harp. “The music has a very calming effect on everyone, including Boo. As soon as I sit at the harp at home, all our dogs flop on their beds and go to sleep. At school, Boo happily snoozes away.”

Good reasons to volunteer
As well as supporting the wellbeing of children and staff, Sue says the volunteering is helping her too. “Being a PAT Volunteer in a primary school is not only a great privilege but it’s also helped me deal with my dementia. I am realistic about what ‘Big A’ will do to me in the long term, as both my parents had it, but from the day of my diagnosis, I have been determined to meet it head on and in as positive a way as I can. Boo and Pets As Therapy are a huge part of this.

“Volunteering has boosted my confidence, bringing to the front of my mind information and skills from my previous professional life. It keeps me busy, I feel useful and it helps me to focus on the present. What’s more, the response from the school is so uplifting. The biggest bonus for me, as a person with dementia and the owner of a PAT Dog, is the number of wonderful people I’m meeting on this new path in my life’s journey. There are so many amazing volunteers and professionals who go the extra mile for others.”


We are always looking to recruit more volunteers.

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