Here is a heart warming story from our Volunteer Jonathan Green and his dog Stanley. Thank you both for sharing your experience.
Stanley is my 7 yr old Grand Basset Griffin Vendeen, to give him his full title and tall, hairy basset hound to give him his description which is far easier to say when asked by any passers by!
I heard about Pets As Therapy from another volunteer and was immediately encouraged to join by Stanley’s friendliness toward people and the smiles he inevitably elicited from them.Having got through the selection process I had to choose where to visit and was helpfully provided with a long list of potential places.
We arrived at a local nursing home not knowing what to expect and were immediately put at ease by the staff and residents’ warm welcome. It was particularly poignant when the only male resident who was suffering from rapidly failing eyesight and who I was concerned would sleep through the visit suddenly woke up and gradually focussed on the unusual image of a dog in his sitting room. He told me he always regretted not having a dog which was further reinforced when Stanley rested his head on his lap and was very happy to be fed his favourite treat. The next visit wasn’t quite as successful, being a cold day the heating was on full blast and I ended up as the only person awake in the reception room with Stanley snoring away as well.
For our next visit we chose a rehabilitation centre for stroke victims and being lunchtime Stanley spent the first part of the visit trying to sniff out the food and amusing the kitchen staff although we were soon bowled over by the excitement and enthusiasm of the residents.It’s always incredibly rewarding witnessing the gradual interaction between some of the more inhibited patients who either aren’t experienced with dogs or aren’t confident with strangers but usually have to be practically peeled off Stanley by the end of our visit. Our second visit to the centre was a little daunting; on arrival we were ushered into the main hall with everyone seated and the lights dimmed with an overhead projector set up. Stanley and I took a position against the wall and I asked one of the nurses what was going on, to be told that someone was coming to give a talk on animals and then after a few minutes of silence it dawned on me that I was the intended lecturer and my discussion a couple of days earlier organising my visit, with whoever was manning the switchboard at the time, had obviously been lost in translation. I decided to create a diversion by walking Stan amongst the audience and soon the lights were switched on and the usual fun ensued with any mention of the ‘talk’ forgotten!
I have always wanted to help at a hospital, preferably with children and after passing a number of fairly vigorous suitability tests we had our first visit and were immediately struck by the tremendous friendliness displayed by the doctors and nurses who clearly understand the great benefits of the patient’s interaction with an animal, in their fairly sterile environment, as well as the welcome distraction to their stressful day. Accompanied by a nurse throughout our visit we were introduced to the patients and I was immediately struck by the gratefulness of the many parents who were in attendance just glad to be able to find another outlet to stimulate their children and have a chat and a stroke themselves. The fairly young children and teenagers we have visited have varying levels of illness/disability but most are happy just to look and smile at Stanley, take photos, stroke him and talk about their pets but never about their pain or illness which I hope suggests that our brief visits provide some respite and connection to life outside the ward. On our second visit one mother poked her head through the cubicle curtains with her daughter having just returned from an operation and she just burst out crying, dropped to the floor hugging Stanley uttering ”you’re beautiful” to him. Another time an older teenager whose movement was fairly restrictive as he was recovering from extensive back surgery determinedly shuffled to the edge of the bed to get a better look and stroke of Stanley much to the surprise of the nurse who said it was very difficult to get him to move at all!
I’m not saying that our visits make all the difference but certainly a little and I just wanted to say thank-you to Pets as Therapy for giving us the opportunity for providing such mutually rewarding experiences!
– PAT Team: Jonathan Green and Stanley