“Bella was born to be a Pets as Therapy dog”: meet Duchess of Kent Hospice’s four-legged volunteer

Pets can be a great support during illness and beyond – as volunteer Barry discovered when, following his wife Sarita’s death, he signed up their puppy Bella to become a certified Pets as Therapy dog.

Bella the Pets as Therapy dog with a Sue Ryder Nurse
"The Sue Ryder Nurses fell in love with her."
Bella the Pets as Therapy dog helping out with art therapy
Bella the Pets as Therapy dog wearing her Sue Ryder name tag
Bella the Pets as Therapy dog in the family support room
Bella the Pets as Therapy dog doing rounds on the ward
Bella the Pets as Therapy dog at work

I became involved with Sue Ryder when my wife Sarita became ill with pancreatic cancer.

Following several bouts of chemo, the illness finally got the better of her and, in November 2016, she was admitted to Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice for palliative care. She died shortly afterwards.

During my wife's illness, we decided to get a puppy, and in November 2014 Bella joined us – mainly to enable my wife to get out whilst she could and take her for walks so as to stay active.

We took her to puppy training classes and, between us, we made sure she became a loving and loyal companion for her - and since her death, she has also become a trusting and loyal companion to me.

“The Sue Ryder Nurses fell in love with her”

Whilst Sarita was in the hospice, I took Bella in to visit every day and, during her last dew days, we stayed with her. When I had to go home for short trips, the Sue Ryder Nurses said they would look after Bella as they had totally fallen in love with her.

After my wife passed away, they mentioned that she would make a good Pets as Therapy dog. I had no idea what that was but, over the following months, I found out and we took the appropriate training and Bella became a therapy dog, passing the assessment with flying colours.

Giving something back

Now, to give something back to Sue Ryder in return for the wonderful care they gave my wife, we visit the patients, staff and relatives once a week to try and bring them some enjoyment.

We also visit the Sue Ryder Charles Clore Day Hospice, which she was recommended for by Duchess of Kent, and Newbury Hospital to see the patients in the ward.

She is a very special dog and was born to be doing the job she does today.

Could you be our next volunteer?

Thank you to Barry and Bella for sharing their story and doing so much to brighten the days of our patients. What an inspiring duo! You can follow their adventures on Bella’s Instagram account.

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There are many ways you could volunteer for us and make a difference – every person's (and dog's!) contribution is valued.

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Bella the Pets as Therapy dog

Pets as Therapy volunteers

Barry and Bella

Barry and his trusty dog Bella (pictured) volunteer every week - across Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, the Charles Clore Day Hospice in Thatcham and Newbury Hospital - to give something back in return for the compassionate care we gave his wife Sarita.