HOSPITAL patients are feeling less “ruff”, thanks to canine intervention.
Buster the dog has been touring wards at Sunderland Royal as part of the Pets As Therapy service which has now started in the trust on a pilot basis.
The national charity was founded in 1983 and provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament-tested and vaccinated dogs.
Each pooch has its own ID photo tag, and the owner also carries ID and wears distinctive yellow clothing.
Research shows that for patients, there are therapeutic benefits in having contact with animals, particularly for children and older people, with the contact helping to normalise situations such as hospital stays.
There is also some evidence that the dogs have successfully aided rehabilitation from serious conditions, particularly of stroke patients.
Buster and owner Julie Wilkie are visiting Ward E58 at the royal over the coming months to provide therapeutic visits to patients and have already proved a big hit.
Rob Common, an end of life care nurse at the hospital, said the idea to use Pets as Therapy came about when people whose family members were dying asked if they could bring in beloved pets.
“It’s difficult to bring different types of pets in, so this is a better way of doing things,” said Rob.
“I have to say it’s been amazing the response we’ve had.
“Buster has made about five or six visits over the past month and although it took a while to organise it’s gone brilliantly.
“You can hear the surprise in the patients’ voices and the look on their faces when he comes in is just great.
“People suffering from stokes are usually getting rehabilitation so they often feel isolated, especially if they have dogs or pets and are away from them. It breaks up the monotony of being in hospital.
Rob added: “We are doing it as a pilot scheme for now, but we are looking to make it available for everyone. And why not?
“The patients who’ve seen him, every one of them have said it’s amazing and that it should be offered to all.”