PAT Magic – Why dogs are the best medicine

Pets As Therapy – A fantastic charity

It’s half term this week, so no school visits for Busy and me.  Instead we made a one-off visit to a community centre in one of the poorer districts in Milton Keynes, to be part of a series of activities for local residents to promote health and wellbeing. There was a lunch club for residents of all the local sheltered accommodations in their meeting place (village hall equivalent), to facilitate meeting others in a similar situation. A visit from a Pets As Therapy dog was welcomed, especially as some of the residents can no longer keep a pet of their own.

If you have had a dog for virtually your whole life, as I have, it is hard to imagine the impact that a dog such as Busy can have.  Some people rarely have the chance to get up close with a dog, because if you don’t have one yourself, you don’t tend to get out walking and therefore don’t meet other dogs.

Busy roars around in the agility field and up in the woods.  She will play for hours with Ounce and her family.  But as soon as I put on her bandana she knows it’s time to work.  She trots along happily and very calmly and quietly goes over to people who come to talk to us.  She stands and lets them fuss her, or leans against their leg.  Busy is happy to be fussed, for as long as needed.  She will take a treat gently from their fingers or off their palm.

When we go into somewhere new, I have become accustomed to people totally ignoring me and focusing on her.  What does surprise me is how people light up when they see her and even more when they can stroke her.  Of course everyone comments on her amazing eyes.  People want to know all about her; how old she is, what type of dog she is and so on.  Then they start talking about their dogs, or their experiences of dogs, or their relatives with dogs.  It is such a great way of getting people talking and drawing them out of themselves.

Pets As Therapy has been going since 1983 and their concept is simple: Our inspiring and dedicated volunteers share their time and their wonderful pets with people in need. This includes an increasing range of venues, including:

  • residential care homes
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • prisons
  • courts
  • universities

There are currently around 5,500 volunteer teams, all visiting at least one place on a regular basis. The charity has a vision to increase this number to 20,000 teams by 2020 – a tall order!

One of Luna’s puppies, Bea, went with Charlotte to visit their local brownie pack this week.  This was not part of a Pets As Therapy programme, as Bea has not yet been assessed.  Charlotte was concerned that Bea might not behave appropriately.  However, she was as good as gold, allowing the children to fuss her and taking it in turns to perform tricks with them all!  I have now encouraged Charlotte to apply to become a volunteer, so that they can go into her local school on a regular basis.

In order to become a Pets As Therapy dog you must be able to answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:

  1. My dog is at least 9 months old
  2. I have owned my dog for at least 6 months
  3. My dog walks on a loose lead wearing a collar
  4. My dog loves being fussed
  5. My dog takes titbits gently
  6. My dog is not worried by sudden noises
  7. My dog is always under control when on a lead
  8. My dog is happy to be groomed
  9. My dog is currently fit and well 

What I love most about being a Pets As Therapy volunteer, is that I am bringing joy to people’s lives.  It’s really easy to do and costs nothing but my time.  So what are you waiting for?

If you want to know more about Pets As Therapy, please go to their website.  I will post more information about the charity and what Busy and I do with them.

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