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PAT dogs bring joy to the wards for Christmas visit

10 December 2015

Health Care

Southend Hospital played host to Buddy and his four-legged Pets As Therapy dog pals who gave smiles aplenty to patients as they visited on wards across the hospital.

Buddy is no Elf, he's an 11 year old Labrador and his owner, Sylvia Wand, 76, from Thorpe Bay has been bringing her dogs into hospitals for the last 23 years.

She started all those years ago with Ben, followed by Carling, then Humphrey, and now Buddy whose paws have been plodding the wards since he was just 18 months old. All her dogs have been black Labradors, with the exception of Ben. "It cheers the patients up," she said.

These Santa paws bring with them the gift of strokes and cuddles. There may be no reindeer but there is Asha, a Tibetan Spaniel and Honey, a Golden Retriever, both owned by husband and wife team Liz, 53, and Tom Ireland, 72, from Southend.

And then there is a former dasher, in the guise of recent recruit Fletcher the greyhound. He always visits patients with dementia on Princess Anne and Windsor wards. His owner, Shirley Ranson, 72, from Westcliff, said: "I walk onto the ward and the patients beam. That's my therapy!"

There are around six regular Pets as Therapy owners and their dogs who visit Southend Hospital on a regular basis, the group is rounded out by Lily, whose 'mum' is Sylvia Andrews, 71, from Westcliff.

And Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of chocolate, that remit was ably covered by Rolo, a two-year-old Sproodle (Springer Spaniel x Miniature Poodle), rescue dog.

His owner, Claire Dean, 51, from Thorpe Bay, said: "Rolo enjoys doing his very special job very much and loves meeting and interacting with patients, visitors and hospital staff. We always get stopped in the corridors for strokes and chats and are frequently addressed with 'Hello gorgeous!' Always referring to Rolo, of course!

"Every time we visit it is heart-warming to see the reaction of everyone - patients, staff and visitors. He definitely lifts people's spirits, even just to see Rolo, if not physically stroking/feeling him. And Rolo really seems to know somehow what an important role he has."

Two of those people Rolo and Claire met were Sheila Goddard, 84, and Michael Goddard, 81, both from Eastwood.  Looking on as Sheila fussed Rolo, Michael said: "This is brilliant therapy for patients, it gives everyone such a boost."