Bilbo Baggins is a 7-year-old black Cockapoo who has been visiting a Children’s Respite Home and a Care Home for 5 ½ years   Following his nomination by Cherry Trees Respite Home for Children with Disabilities, I was thrilled to be informed that he was to be one of the 6 Finalists at Crufts in March 2016.  The photos and details of the 6 dogs appeared in the October issue of Yours Magazine and voting began.

Bilbo appeared in The Surrey Advertiser newspaper and was invited to the studios of BBC Surrey Breakfast for an ”interview” with James and Suzanne  in October and again in March, photos and video of him appearing on their Facebook and Twitter pages.  I talked about PAT and the work the dogs do mentioning

One Friday in January we were invited to a Junior school where Bilbo was introduced to four classes in Years 3 & 4 in different classrooms, totalling about 140 children, while I explained about what PAT dogs and cats do and the people they visit.  He had a wonderful time.

The big day is looming and Bilbo is beautifully groomed by Dinah at Merrist Wood College and then we travelled to Tewkesbury to stay with friends so that we are closer to Crufts – we daren’t be late! – and our friends will look after Flicka, our other Cockapoo.

We arrive at Crufts with hundreds of other dogs and Bilbo is really excited by the bustle and smells.  We sign in at the Pets As Therapy stand prior to joining the other 5 finalists and going to the big ring.  Photos are taken of us and the excitement grows.  We parade into the ring and stand in spotlights while an announcement is made about each dog and the establishments we visit.  The big moment arrives and BILBO IS ANNOUNCED AS THE PAT DOG OF THE YEAR!  I didn’t react at first, although Bilbo heard his name, as I couldn’t believe it was us.   How thrilling that was!   I was shaking but my Bilbo took it all in his stride, just a day at the office.

Back in the collecting ring Bilbo and I were interviewed on behalf of PAT, Hi-Life the sponsors and Yours Magazine.  Many photos were taken and then all the Finalists were asked to go to another ring where we would parade around and then encourage members of the public and their families to come in and pat the dogs and talk to us.

Carrying a crystal Trophy and a huge Rosette we returned to our friends, who had a bottle of champagne on ice for us and treats for Bilbo!   Waitrose contacted me and once home I was asked to go to Cherry Trees, where their photographer took about 80 photos of us with the children.  The title of the article in their Weekend Magazine was “Good dog gets a PAT”.  Below are some of the photos.

Of course Yours Magazine did a full page feature on Bilbo and his win and our local Newspaper and Ashtead Magazine did follow up articles.

Bilbo was asked to be Guest of Honour at three dog shows, where we paraded around in our new PAT uniform, and was invited to the Grand Opening of the Sensory, Holistic and Art Rooms at Cherry Trees.  The Mayor of Guildford performed the ceremony and actually asked if he and his wife could have a picture of Bilbo with them.

Meanwhile we have been visiting Cherry Trees and Furze Hill Care Home regularly and are working with Sofia, a young girl suffering from Autism, who was frightened of Bilbo, but by the end of the visit she was leading him around.  Since then we have visited her home and family.  The mother emailed me saying “The calming effect of having the dogs visit lasted well into the next day when we visited my dad in Worthing and he noticed the difference in Sofia. She was a lot calmer and was unusually affectionate” A senior member of staff commented “That is so amazing and a real inspirational story, we have shared this with Ofsted as a positive outcome and a huge thank you to you for all your support and kindness. Sometimes people do not know the power of animal love and the true therapies they offer.  I personally could not have a home without animals and never have, my own dog is amazing with my son who also has Autism “

A week ago we met the family for a walk, where the girl arrived clutching her mother’s hand and ended up happily throwing sticks for Bilbo and Flicka.  At present I am trying to find a suitable Cockapoo from the rehoming/rescue section of the Cockapoo Club GB for the family as they have fallen for our two dogs.

Bilbo donated £250 of his winnings to Cherry Trees and they used the money to buy presents and selection boxes for all the CT children and their siblings at the Christmas Party to which Bilbo and I were invited.

In December several PAT volunteers were asked to visit Rosebery School in Epsom.  Groups of 5/6 girls moved round the hall to each of us and learned about PAT and what we did as Volunteers.  A teacher there was so interested that she has applied to be a volunteer with her dog.  I also received an email from the Deputy Head enquiring how her father’s care home could apply for a visiting PAT dog.

We have one more engagement as Bilbo Baggins and I have been invited to talk about PAT at a Townswomen’s Guild meeting in a month’s time.

I would finally like to say Good Luck to the six new Finalists for the PAT Dog of the Year Award 2017.  I have voted for my choice, and I hope the Volunteer and dog chosen has as much enjoyment in their year as Bilbo Baggins and I have had.

Philippa Cadge
3 February 2017


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