Lucy Owen, a journalist and BBC news presenter, has become the newest volunteer for our organisation, and is now encouraging others to think about making a New Year’s resolution to volunteer with their dog too. Volunteering is rewarding, good for your wellbeing and it could make a real difference to a young person’s life in 2021.
Finding out more about our Read2Dogs scheme, which aims to improve literacy in young people by developing their confidence, interest and enjoyment in reading, Lucy and her dog Buddy recently caught up with Kathryn and Wendy Bebb-Sutton, volunteers at Pencoed Primary School in Bridgend. Pupils and staff alike look forward to the regular visits from Teisen, a Field Spaniel.
Our Volunteers visit almost 1,500 schools across the UK with their Dogs, who are all simply friendly pets with no special training. These visits provide companionship, enhance self-esteem, motivate speech and inspire young people to have fun reading. A dog is non-judgemental, and a great listener, so is a great boost to any school child who may be struggling to read aloud.
With recent Covid-19 restrictions, our school visits have been limited. However, thanks to support by The National Lottery Community Fund, we have launched a new Virtual Read2Dogs service which enables volunteers to safely team up with schools. Online technology is helping our existing volunteers – and we are welcoming new volunteers too – to virtually meet young people and continue to assist with their learning.
This January, we’ve launched a special appeal for new volunteers living in Wales, and elsewhere in the UK, so that more schools, care homes, hospitals, hospices, prisons and other establishments can benefit in the future from the companionship and friendship of an animal. Interested dog owners who want to make a special New Year’s resolution for 2021 can find out more here: https://petsastherapy.org/join-us/
“I’m so excited to start 2021 as a Pets As Therapy Volunteer. Buddy and I can’t wait to work with a school as part of the Read2Dogs scheme. As a dog-loving children’s author, it’s a dream for me to be able to combine two of my passions.
Working for BBC Wales, I’ve had the chance recently to discover first-hand what a difference pet therapy can make. I met children who told me how much happier they felt reading aloud to a dog who simply listened to them quietly, and they told me how gaining confidence through that pet had led to improvements in their reading levels. I also met one young boy who had been missing a lot of school. After the PAT Dog became a regular visitor, his attendance at school improved too. Hearing these uplifting stories of how PAT animals are making a difference to the lives of children, made me want to help too.
The Read2Dogs scheme felt the perfect fit for me, but PAT is helping give comfort and spread happiness in hospitals, care homes and prisons right around the country – and they always need more two- and four-legged volunteers! The variety of opportunities mean you and your pet can find the right place for you to help out. I can’t think of anything more rewarding that seeing the joy and smiles that your pet will bring to those who need it. I can’t wait for Buddy to start helping out!”
“Reading to Teisen is such a valuable experience for the children. It encourages them to be eager and excited about reading. When the children return to class they are bubbling with excitement about the session and can’t wait to talk about it. It really is such a special experience that children can be involved in.”
– Kaye King, Wellbeing Officer, Pencoed Primary School.
“There are many wellbeing advantages of pet therapy and it has been scientifically proven that any interaction with a friendly pet has significant benefits. Stroking and petting a pet produces an overall relaxation response and releases the endorphin oxytocin that provides a calming effect through our bodies.
I have been able to witness these advantages in the children I work with first-hand. It lifts their spirits and helps with conditions such as depression and anxiety. The pet provides company and comfort, as well as encouraging children with communication difficulties to overcome some speech disorders. Some children who find making friendships difficult gain a benefit of having a non-judgemental friend that they can interact with without fear of feeling isolated or alienated; this is particularly beneficial with the children I work with, with conditions such as ADHD/ASD.
The children look forward to Teisen coming into school and having something to look forward to benefits their overall mental health and wellbeing.”
– Wendy Bebb-Sutton and Kath Bebb-Sutton
We would love to hear your stories about Pets As Therapy, whether you’re a volunteer, an establishment that works with us, or someone who has been visited by a PAT pet. To submit your story please contact email@example.com.