February 20th is National Love Your Pet Day across the UK. Rochdale is home to some very special pets including the Pets as Therapy dogs at Springhill Hospice.
The Pets as Therapy dogs and their owners are on hand to visit patients, families and staff and bring a smile to their face at what can be a difficult time.
One of the volunteer pets at Springhill is Oli and her owner Lynn. The pair joined the other therapy dogs at the Hospice back in 2015, all of which are loved by the patients and their families.
Oli, like the other dogs at the Hospice has a placid and gentle temperament. Lynn decided that this would make her a great dog to have as a therapy pet at the Hospice.
“People often ask me has Oli been trained to be a Pets as Therapy dog, the answer is no. From the first day we picked her up as a tiny puppy, it was clear that she is a patient, calm soul and would make a great companion and one day could help others. I had heard about Pets as Therapy and, knowing Oli’s temperament, thought she would be a perfect fit. I have always had a personal passion for the Hospice movement and wanted to volunteer in some way, so having Oli was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”
When they arrive at the Hospice on a Wednesday morning, they visit the patients on the ward who would like a visit from Oli where she is able to provide a calming influence, the chance for people to talk about their own pets both past and present and a scratch behind the ears!
Lynn said, “For Oli, as a Pets as Therapy dog, she brings a lot of comfort and smiles to patients and staff at the Hospice, especially for those people who are dog lovers.
“It’s hard to describe the effect she can have on some people, but overall, her purpose is to bring a smile to patients and sometimes just sitting with someone is enough, even if they don’t stroke her, there is something soothing about having a dog curled up asleep at your feet.”
Oli and Lynn along with other therapy dogs also visit the Day Hospice at Springhill, where they are able to chat and catch up on what patients have been doing as well as Oli getting her breakfast treats!
“Many a time there are breakfast toast crusts left on plates saved by her patient friends, which Oli loves!”
Over the years Lynn, Oli and the other Pets as Therapy dogs and their owners have met some incredible people at the Hospice. Feedback to the volunteers has been overwhelmingly positive from both patients and families. It’s not just the patients and their families that gain something from the dogs, but also the owners and the pets themselves.
Lynn said, “When it’s Wednesdays, she knows that the yellow collar and lead mean we go to Springhill, she also knows that this means meeting lots of people and getting fussed over.”
Julie Halliwell, Chief Executive of the Hospice and a fellow dog owner said, “We have a number of Pets as Therapy Dogs which visit us at the Hospice. Oli, and our other visiting dogs provide a huge amount of joy and comfort to our patients and their families, and are seen as a valuable part of our volunteer workforce.”
For more information about Springhill Hospice visit www.springhill.org.uk