Kirstie Coy-Martin is a full-time police officer, and spends her time in work dealing with some incredibly difficult situations. Becoming a Pets As Therapy volunteer with her rescue dog, Scooter, has allowed her to reduce her own stress and focus on bringing happiness to others.
Pets As Therapy volunteer profile
Name: Kirstie Coy-Martin
Location: The Witterings, West Sussex
Became volunteer: 2018
PAT dog name: Scooter
PAT dog age: 4 years (approximately)
Our interview with Kirstie
How did your PAT dog, Scooter, come into your life?
I’ve had Scooter for about 3 years. I rescued him from a shelter in Portugal. He was thrown out on the streets when he was a puppy. He was taken by the rehoming charity Dogs of Portugal to a wonderful rescue sanctuary called Cantinho Da Milu in Setubal where he was put up for adoption. A friend of mine had rescued a few dogs from there and told me about Scooter who was named Olly by staff. I couldn’t resist his sweet face and something in his eyes told me he was a special boy. I wasn’t wrong.
Scooter settled in well and immediately became firm friends with his big sister Corky the Schnauzer. He went through a brief phase of eating shoes and one iPad but soon grew out of it. He was so calm, gentle and loving. Nothing seemed to phase or bother him. He even has his own Instagram page now at @scooter_the_street_therapy_dog!
Scooter proves that just because your first family didn’t want you and you had to live on the streets, you should never give up and one day your life will become very special indeed.
What made you decide to become a Pets As Therapy volunteer team?
I started to complete a diploma in Complete Canine Care and during the course of my studies I read about Pets as Therapy. I immediately knew Scooter would be perfect as a PAT dog and began the application process. About 18 months ago Scooter passed with flying colours and luckily my criminal record checks came back clear!
What is a typical visit like?
Scooter began his work at Church Farm Care Home in East Wittering. We visited the residents for about a year before the opportunity to try out for a position at St Richards Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex came about. We secured our place on the Stroke Unit and have been visiting patients, visitors and staff ever since. We also visit any other patients who staff feel would really benefit from being with Scooter. For example long term patients missing their own dogs left at home
What difference has Scooter made in the hospital he visits?
Scooter seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to patients. He will snuggle into the very low in mood ones, be playful with brighter ones and always rolls over for a tummy tickle from the staff. From the moment Scooter gets out of the car and walks through the grounds and through the hospital we get stopped for cuddles, tickles and even photos.
And it isn’t just about the patients themselves. Scooter also makes a massive difference to the visitors who are there to see patients. This is especially true with stroke patients, who sometimes are extremely unwell or can’t communicate at all. Having Scooter there can help to break the tension and stress for them, and give the visitors something to talk to the patient about.
Scooter is so highly regarded he recently won Volunteer of the year along with his fellow PAT friends Tallulah, Maisie and at the West Sussex NHS Trust Star Awards ceremony.
Is there anyone that Scooter has made a particular difference to?
A couple of visits ago the nurses stopped me and told me that one of the patients was in a very depressed state as her own dog had just had to be put to sleep. She was devastated. I asked the nurse to check first if she would find it too upsetting to see Scooter around the ward. The lady’s son was there and he thought it might actually help his mum so we went in.
Apparently this lady was so depressed she was just curled up in bed not talking. As soon as she saw Scooter she sat up, a huge smile came across her face and she burst into tears. I thought oh no we’ve made her cry but they were tears of joy. Scooter went straight to her and tried to jump up to get to her so we covered her bed with sterile pads as she was desperate for a cuddle. He gave her the biggest cuddle and lots of kisses and she sobbed with joy. Even her son was crying it was so beautiful. She kept saying “it’s a sign, it’s a sign”. It turned out Scooter looked just like the dog she had lost and he inspired her to try to get better so she could go home and get another dog to love.
And how do you find the Pets As Therapy volunteer visits yourself?
I’m a full time police officer. I’ve been in the Metropolitan Police for 22 years and dealt with just about everything life has to offer. For 15 of those years I was a Detective on the Child Abuse Investigation Team and the last three have seen me as a Custody Sergeant at a central London Custody Suite. At work I don’t see any happy people. I deal with violence, aggression, sadness and hopelessness all day everyday. If I didn’t do something positive outside of work I’d probably never see the bright side of humanity and I’d probably go completely mad.
Volunteering with Scooter is so very rewarding. Probably selfishly I get to make people happy, see lots of smiles and make an actual difference. I can feel my stress lifted and my blood pressure lower as soon as we walk into the hospital. When I’m volunteering it feels strange as people are actually pleased to see me for once!
Regarding fitting in volunteering around working full time it’s easy for me as I work 12 hour days or nights in blocks of 5 so I get quite a lot of days off after to recover. The hospital are very flexible around my shifts. I just drop them an email when we are free and they say they’d love to see us.
Our next mission is to teach Scooter to surf, so that he can become a Surf Therapy dog in the water. You can follow his journey with this on our Instagram page @Scooter_the_street_therapy_dog.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.