by a WSSC member
Pets as Therapy (PAT Dogs) is an offshoot of the Pro-Dogs charity and was set up several years ago to provide dogs to visit elderly people in retirement homes, who when unable to manage on their own, had to give up their beloved pets and move into accommodation where there would be care and support. Few Homes allow individual pets, however, there are some sheltered accommodation units where an existing pet may go with its owner but when the animal dies it may not be replaced. Some homes also have a “house dog or cat”.
The original scheme rapidly expanded to try to fill a perceived gap in the Therapy Programme for both the mentally and physically disabled, and then again expanded to encompass anyone of any age to whom contact with an animal could be beneficial. It has been medically proven that contact with – i.e. stroking – an animal is a calming exercise, and I know that a cuddle with one of my dogs if I am having a bad day is far more beneficial than any prescribed medicine.
PAT dogs today are to be found not only in retirement homes but also in hospitals and hospices, and in children’s wards where cats, rabbits, and other small animals are also on the visitors’ list.
My present PAT dog, Megan, is now 12½ and has been doing the job for four years. The only requirements for registering her were that we could spare the time on a regular basis and a vet’s certificate declaring her to be healthy and of sound temperament. The local homes we visit originally catered for both the elderly and those with Altzeimer’s Disease and Senile Dementia.
I shall never forget one very elderly lady, almost totally paralysed by a stroke, who showed no reaction to anything but who would just move her fingers when I put her hand on Megan’s head. Talking to the daughter of someone in a similar establishment, she said that her mother changed so much when the local PAT dog called in. I can believe it; most of the residents are so pleased to see Megan.
From Megan’s side – she knows exactly where we are going on a Thursday afternoon and while she also knows she will get fed as many biscuits as I will allow, she is incredibly gentle with everyone and is quite happy to be hugged and kissed. The look on her face when “her” biscuits disappear into a human mouth “by mistake” is a wonder to behold!
It is a very rewarding afternoon and one I would recommend to anyone with a couple of hours to spare.
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