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Celebrating International Dog Day with our therapy dogs

Therapy Dog

This International Dog Day (26 August) we are highlighting the important work of our therapy dogs who have been supporting patients at West Berkshire Community Hospital.

While dogs have been working alongside people for thousands of years across a range of industries, the introduction of dogs offering therapeutic care within healthcare is a relatively new one.

The concept of therapy dogs was originally devised by Lesley Scott-Ordish back in 1976, when she noticed how unhappy elderly people became when they had to give up their dogs to go into residential care. Now there are a number of dogs being used in health and social care settings with an estimated 4,000 volunteers working across the UK with their pets.

West Berkshire Community Hospital has introduced its own therapy dog programme, with a group of canine volunteers visiting patients and staff each week. Their task is simple but invaluable - to visit the wards and spend time being stroked and cuddled by patients, providing companionship and comfort during their hospital stay.

The therapy dogs, Scooby, Jasper and Bella (pictured), have been through rigorous training to become valued members of the volunteering team at the hospital. Bella’s owner Barry was inspired to train her as a therapy dog after she supported his wife during her battle with cancer and he saw first-hand how beneficial her presence was.

Two therapy dogs

With 87% of owners noticing an improvement in their mental health because of their pet, there is a clear link between being around animals and improved wellbeing. The positive impact the dogs have is immediately visible for all to see with patients clearly delighted to see the dogs in action, and even the staff enjoy a cuddle with a playful pup.

Wellbeing Therapist and organiser Christine Stockwell said: “The therapy dogs have such a calming and positive effect on both the patients and staff, and it feels like such a treat having them visit weekly. It is so lovely that we can offer such a good range of holistic therapies here on the wards combined with our traditional healthcare”.

How you can get involved

West Berkshire Community Hospital has a range of volunteering opportunities such as working with the therapy dogs, within our therapy garden, chaplaincy, and supporting our patients, offering them company and friendship. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Christine Stockwell.

Email Christine.stockwell@berkshire.nhs.uk

Become a member

As a Foundation Trust, Berkshire Healthcare is accountable directly to the communities we serve. To help shape our future and carry-on initiatives such as our therapy dog programme, we need support from those local to us, and you can do this by becoming a member.

Membership is free, and you can find out more on our website.

Find out how to become a member