We welcome this guest blog from Netty explaining her experience of her dog Fizz becoming a Therapy Dog.
After a 4-week stint away from my dogs in hospital 13 years ago, I learned the hard way just how much difference dogs make to people’s lives. Once I was well enough, my dog at the time was assessed and was soon visiting care homes and the Stroke Ward at our local hospital. Sadly, he started to struggle with arthritis so had to retire and then life got in the way so volunteering fell by the way side.
Fizz has opened so many doors for me, she was my first sighthound (I’m now a total addict!) and she was my first sports dog. We’ve tried our hand at agility, disc sports and her true love which is flyball.
She is a sweet and calm girl away from flyball and I’d always thought she would make a wonderful therapy dog but as she is raw fed, I’d resigned myself to not being able to explore that with her as the charity we worked with previously don’t allow raw fed dogs.
That all changed in 2022 when I met Therapy Dogs Nationwide at Crufts.
I was so excited when the volunteer I was chatting to mentioned that they accept raw fed dogs, this was my chance to get back into something which brings so many people so much joy.
I applied as soon as I got home and on 23rd March 2022 we were assessed. It’s a really easy process and the assessor put me at ease quickly. They just need to make sure your dog walks on a collar and lead without excessive pulling (no competition heelwork needed), that your dog can be handled by yourself and others, that they aren’t left worried by loud noises, that they are calm while you’re chatting, take treats nicely and that they aren’t worried by you getting a close hold of them if needed. Unsurprisingly to me, Fizz passed with flying colours.
We currently visit a local care home once a fortnight, while Fizz was a little worried on our first visit with all the new smells and building work taking place however as soon as she got to work meeting people she relaxed.
Now she now pulls me up to the front door on every visit and makes sure to greet everyone with a wagging tail. There is a real difference you can see in the people she visits, it’s truly amazing.
All the residents light up as she enters the room, she has helped to distract and redirect distressed residents as well as encouraging interaction from those who withdrawn.
She does have her favourite residents, unsurprisingly they are the ones who share their biscuits with her but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love every single resident and member of staff she meets. She seems to just instinctively know what each person needs; those who are more mobile she will sit or stand next to for a fuss, those who need her to be calmer with, she will rest her head on their knee and those who are unable to get out of bed she will carefully put her paws on the edge of the bed so they can reach her.
I was able to take Fizz to Crufts this year to volunteer on the Therapy Dogs Nationwide stall as well as being part of the parade in the KC Good Citizen Ring, which was really special. It was important to me to hopefully encourage someone to make a difference in the same way we were.
We both absolutely loved the day and once she’d forgiven me for the journey in the snow, Fizz very much enjoyed meeting everyone and being totally adored.
If you think your dog would be a suitable therapy dog, I really would recommend applying and getting assessed. All they ask for is a regular commitment, that can be once a week, once a fortnight, once a month or whatever frequency works for you and the establishment you visit. It’s not just care homes and hospitals either, visits can include anywhere including prisons, schools, universities or businesses. The possibilities for people you could support are endless.
If you are interested in applying head over to the Therapy Dog Nationwide website https://tdn.org.uk/