Meet Sue Ryder volunteer Lynn and her furry four-legged companion, Quito. Here, Lynn talks about deciding to register Quito as a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog and how he is bringing comfort, companionship and joy to patients at Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub Berkshire.
When Lynn first started volunteering at the palliative care hub in 2018, her role was as a volunteer driver, which involved driving patients from their homes to appointments and back.
During the Coronavirus pandemic she decided to further support patients by signing up her seven-year-old Bichon Frise, Quito, to become a certified Pets as Therapy dog.
Providing comfort during difficult times
“For the last 20 years I have owned Bichon Frise and I chose that breed because they’re very affectionate and they just adore people and other animals. I’d noticed that some of my friends that were going through difficult times would often get comfort from my dogs and they were a great distraction. I guess unofficially my dogs had been therapy dogs since the day they were born,” says Lynn.
“I saw that Sue Ryder was looking for new therapy dogs to visit its hospices and palliative care hubs and I decided to put Quito forward to Pets as Therapy. He passed his assessment with flying colours and is now the official therapy dog for Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub Berkshire in Newbury.”
Benefits of therapy dogs
Pets as Therapy dogs can provide a wide range of physical, social and emotional benefits to patients and families. They offer the comfort of physical contact, which reduces anxiety and improves mood, and studies also show that petting animals can help reduce blood pressure through the release of 'feel good' hormones.
“When I introduce him to patients I can see them light up and they engage more”
“Quito has been visiting the hub on Wednesdays, when Covid restrictions allow. I usually take him on his lead round to everybody just to say hello and check if they are OK with dogs. Quito of course recognises the people that give him the most fuss and biscuits and he makes a beeline for them! The only thing in danger is his waistline – he gets lots of treats on his ‘work days’!
“He is a talking point and his presence helps encourage conversation between people who might not have a lot in common. When I introduce him to patients I can see them light up and they engage more. It is very rewarding in that respect.
“It is fantastic to know that I am helping someone, and seeing people respond either through interacting with me or through stroking Quito is lovely. Often, I find that people open up and share their stories with me and I am very privileged to hear about them and their lives. Although a lot of the patients no longer have pets, they will tell me about the pets they’ve had in the past and it’s wonderful to hear.
“I would definitely encourage people to contact Sue Ryder if they are interested in volunteering. There are a wide range of roles available and you can choose something which is suitable for your situation and requirements. For example, I would have loved to work in a charity shop, but I couldn’t do that because I can’t stand very well. However, I like driving and I have a car so it was no problem for me to become a volunteer driver. I am also lucky enough to have a dog that helps others.”
“It’s a great way to meet new friends”
“There are other volunteers at the hub who meet and greet patients, make tea and coffee and arrange activities. I love to join in with the regular quizzes they hold each week– although I can’t say I am much help! It’s very enjoyable and gets everyone talking. It’s a great way to meet new friends.”
Thank you to Lynn and Quito for sharing their story and doing so much to brighten the days of our patients.