Havering’s Pets As Therapy branches appeals for new volunteers
- Credit: Archant
From those living in the wild, to the creatures curled up on the sofa, the UK is a country of animal lovers.
The companionship and comfort that often comes with spending time with animals is unlike no other and that is why a charity is appealing to recruit more volunteers across the borough to help provide just this.
The Havering branch of Pets As Therapy (PAT), which provides therapeutic visits from dogs and cats to places such as hospitals, hospices, prisons, care homes, schools and special needs schools, is looking for new pets to join its volunteering team.
Volunteer co-ordinator Julie Poole, of Hornchurch, said: “Volunteers with just a small amount of spare time each week work with their own pets, to bring joy, comfort and companionship to many individuals who appreciate being able to touch and stroke a friendly animal.
“It’s extremely rewarding for both the volunteer and their pet and is really appreciated by the people in the establishments visited.”
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Julie adopted her border collier cross Millie from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in 2000 and started volunteering at the charity after being accepted to join its ranks.
The pair visited a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Hornchurch, and a children’s ward at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, regularly as well as other events.
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Sadly, Millie passed away at age 16 a couple of years ago but Julie continues to help the charity as its volunteer co-ordinator.
Julie said: “Millie and I loved visiting together and the children so obviously benefitted from knowing her.
“She was very relaxing for them, and she soon worked out who to get the most attention from!”
Sheila Hughes, of Harold Wood, spends time every week visiting a care home with her four-year-old retired greyhound George.
She says a visit from George is a huge benefit to the residents, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“It gives them a boost and makes those living with these illnesses feel more comfortable as I chat to them and they can stroke George at the same time.
“He [George] enjoys it too, I wouldn’t let him do it if he didn’t.
“I just think it makes everyone feel good.”
As part of the charity’s Read2Dogs programme, the volunteer pets are also taken into schools where children get to read to the animals to help improve their literacy skills.
Artist Julie King, 50, from Hornchurch, got involved as she wanted an opportunity to meet more people, so signed her eight-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel Tucker last year, after he was rescued from a puppy farm and adopted in 2016.
Julie and Tucker visit a care home and also take part in the Read2Dogs scheme at a primary school in the borough.
“Tucker is so friendly, laid back and full of character, he has just the right personality needed to be a PAT dog so it seemed an obvious choice”, Julie said.
“The children are always excited to see him and it gives their confidence a boost as they are not at all shy when they read to him as he doesn’t judge or correct them.
“If other people have a dog or a cat and some spare time, I would definitely recommend volunteering as it is so rewarding for all concerned.”
To become a PATs volunteer, each dog and cat has to be assessed, they must have been with their owner for at least six months, be nine months and older and be able to pass the temperament assessment.
All breeds of dog can become part of the team but all pets must be fully vaccinated.
The charity hopes that it will one day have enough volunteers to visit the residents in every care home in the borough.
For further information on becoming a Pets Volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org