Helen Moss has been a registered Pets As Therapy volunteer since February 2019, volunteering alongside her Cockerpoo Tilly. In this interview she tells us how she was inspired to register with Pets As Therapy, and what difference Tilly makes for the patients she visits.

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Pets As Therapy volunteer profile

Name: Helen Moss

Location: Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Became volunteer: February 2019

PAT dog name: Tilly Rose

PAT dog breed: Cockerpoo

PAT dog age: 5 years

Our interview with Helen

How did your PAT dog, Tilly, come into your life?

I had a cancer scare and we decided that having a dog would help us through this situation. We chose Tilly because she was small and so affectionate when we went to see her – she just had to come home with us.

What made you decide to become a Pets As Therapy volunteer team?

It all started with the Pets as Therapy chocolate lab, Hoover, who visits Great Ormond Street’s Eagle Ward where my daughter worked.

My daughter saw the HUGE difference he made on the ward, not only for the children, but staff and visitors. He was able to give another focus to a horrendous situation and the owner worked in partnership with the Occupational Therapy and Play Therapists to promote the children’s recovery and progression- a real star all round.

My daughter encouraged me to look into it for Tilly Rose. Pets As Therapy dogs need to be calm and friendly, and Tilly seemed perfect: she doesn’t bark, she doesn’t moult and she just loves cuddles.

What is a typical visit like?

After we registered Tilly with Pets As Therapy, our local coordinator told us that our local hospital were starting to take therapy dogs for visits, and that’s where it all began!

So once a week we go to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital where on the ICU wards, we work with the sickest of people, some of which are unable to respond at that time and some who are on a very long journey to recovery. Tilly knows when she’s working. We have a bag with all her things in and she knows that the collar and lead in blue (to match the charity) means she is going to work.

Tilly now visits Intensive Care Units at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital as well as four different offices to see the teams behind the scenes. The welcome she gets is second to none. She has her own bowl and treats on ICU, and a ‘Tilly’s Toybox’ in one of the offices – she’s so spoilt. Doctors, consultants, anaesthetists, nurses, cafe assistants, care assistants, cleaners, security, car park attendants, shuttle bus drivers and the shop assistants all now speak to Tilly and make a fuss of her – so much so it typically takes 20 minutes to get from the car park to the first visit because of people stopping and talking to us!

You can see more of Tilly’s visits by following her Twitter profile @TillyRoseMoss.

What difference has Tilly made in the hospitals she visits?

Tilly actually now has her own comments book at both sites to record the feedback from those who come across her, a way of recording the moments that make people smile and make a difference to the stay in hospital. Below you can see some examples of the feedback we’ve had: 

“Tilly came in today to visit us at ICU, she came over with Helen all wagging her tail and happy to come for a snuggle wanting her tummy tickled. Such a wonderful temperament and made me so happy. I forgot all about my pain, laughed and smiled all day after that. Thank you Helen for bringing your beautiful Tilly to lift our spirits and help us to recover. Thank you she is such a joy xxx” 

“My mum was really pleased to meet Tilly. She was a great distraction for 10 minutes and Tilly has a lovely gentle nature.”

“Tilly was a great distraction and helped me cope with my illness. This is such a good idea.” 

“Tilly and Helen came to visit Edna today, what a pleasure it was, Edna has had a dog since aged 12 and at present is missing her dog Betty Boo. Thank you for the cuddle Tilly.”

Is there anyone that Tilly has made a particular difference to?

We were asked on one occasion, by the patient’s parents to visit their son. I lifted Tilly Rose up and his father held his sons’ hand and stroked Tilly while I spoke about her- her breed, her nature and what we do every week.

When he regained full consciousness weeks later he was able to remember Tilly and what we had spoken about. It was such a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved even when things appear to be very difficult.

And how do you find the Pets As Therapy volunteer visits yourself?

The difference it makes to me personally isn’t something I considered when I started, it was about showing Tilly off and letting people see how amazing she is. However, this has changed into something far more to me. I take no notice of why the patient is in there – that is not my story or business, but watching the individual smile makes me smile and that makes me happy. If I can, by just taking my amazing dog into these hospitals make people smile, then I feel I have achieved something great and that is invaluable. It is all about making memories wherever you are.

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 marketing@monchu.uk.

We are also always looking for new recruits to carry on the incredible work that volunteers like Barry and Holly do. If you are interested in volunteering for Pets As Therapy, please fill out our application form, and we’ll be in touch.