Arleen Paton-Smith and her dog, Rosie, from Birchington, are helping to make a difference to Pilgrims Hospices patients who are living with an incurable illness.
Rosie is a Maltese Terrier and Bichon Frise cross-breed and registered as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. She visits the Margate hospice once a week with Arleen, so that patients can experience the many calming, anxiety-reducing benefits that come through interacting with animals.
Arleen said: “Rosie has a special pink sparkly collar and lead, which we keep for visiting so she knows where we are going when I put it on her. As soon as we arrive at the hospice she can’t wait to go in.”
Rosie is always very keen to see the patients and often gently talks to them, even if it’s to ask for a treat! It can be a pleasant distraction for them to welcome her. Many patients have had their own pets and miss them, so getting a cuddle with Rosie brings back lovely memories.
Arleen and Rosie visit on Thursday mornings when patients coping with a life limiting illness at home come into the hospice for a day. Arleen chats with patients and volunteers, and Rosie greets everyone in her friendly way. Afterwards, they go up to the hospice ward to meet in-patients and their visitors.
Arleen added: “Rosie is always very keen to see the patients and often gently talks to them, even if it’s to ask for a treat! It can be a pleasant distraction for them to welcome her. Many patients have had their own pets and miss them, so getting a cuddle with Rosie brings back lovely memories, which they are happy to share with me. Because she is small and fluffy she is perfect to sit on a lap or even the bed, and you can see the pleasure that having contact with an animal brings to patients.”
Arleen was a volunteer receptionist for 13 years at the Canterbury hospice, which she thoroughly enjoyed but stopped when she moved to Birchington.
She said: “When Rosie came into my life as a rescue dog, a friend told me about Pets As Therapy and I decided to apply. Happily, we were accepted. I’m a big supporter of Pilgrims and the wonderful work they do, so it’s the perfect place for Rosie and I to volunteer as I don’t have to leave her at home. Our roles with Pilgrims and Pets As Therapy mean that I can still enjoy volunteering but in a different way.
“It is a fact that pets can lower anxiety and blood pressure and be a temporary distraction for patients, family and staff, so I hope that Rosie and I help during our visits in some small way. We certainly enjoy meeting and talking to so many lovely people.”
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