Laid-back dog Rodney makes friends at the hospice

Retired pharmaceutical industry worker and Pilgrims Hospices volunteer Martyn Ponting has owned dogs for years.

Then, when he was looking for a new way to give his time and energy to the hospice in Ashford, his canine friend Rodney gave him the perfect opportunity.

Rodney, a two-year-old black labrador, is now a regular visitor to Pilgrims Hospice Ashford. As a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, he enjoys his regular Wednesday social morning in Pilgrims Therapy Centre and also visits patients on the ward.

Martyn from Sellindge said: “My career in the pharmaceutical industry often took me to environments where PAT dogs attended. Knowing how special the service is and how uplifting seeing a friendly furry face can be for patients, I thought I’d enlist Rodney’s gentle skills.”

Rodney’s owner Martyn can often be found at Pilgrims Hospice Ashford, whether it’s as part of the volunteer gardening force that keeps the Ashford grounds in such beautiful condition or to bring along Rodney, the very much loved PAT dog for patients, families and of course Pilgrims staff to enjoy.

“Rodney is very well behaved and absolutely loves his time with everyone at the hospice. He was such a laid-back puppy, I thought he would be a perfect candidate to become a Pets As Therapy dog. His huge calm eyes and affectionate nature, I knew he had to come home with me.

Rodney’s a very gentle soul and thoroughly enjoys his visits to Pilgrims.


Rodney often receives compliments from the care team; Pilgrims doctors say animals are often a great icebreaker and help with patient communication. Everyone seems to relax with Rodney in the room.

Martyn added: “Rodney’s a very gentle soul and thoroughly enjoys his visit to Pilgrims. There’s always time for a cuddle. His favourite treat is a smelly stinky old tennis ball; it’s definitely his favourite thing in life, along with a good swim. I really enjoy my visits to Pilgrims too. I meet such interesting people and enjoy their company. I bring Rodney along and he just works his way around the room to enjoy as many tummy rubs and ear tickles as he can.

I’m very proud of Rodney.


Every hour and every minute of volunteering for Pilgrims Hospices is hugely valued and goes a long way for the people needing our care.

Our volunteers play a part in every aspect of life in our hospices: they offer support, skills, kindness, care and they raise money; they can be a friendly face helping in our shops and working on our receptions. By generously giving their time, volunteers support our staff as they work to provide the outstanding levels of care for which we are well known.

Inspired to become a Pilgrims’ volunteer?

Visit and look out for more stories and information throughout Volunteers’ Week!

Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place 1-7 June every year and is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity.

We’re accredited by REVAMP, a quality mark for Volunteer Involving Organisations developed by Stronger Kent Communities, a leading provider of support for the voluntary sector in Kent.

Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to thousands of people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.