PALLIATIVE CARE | Therapy dog brings smiles

PAWS FOR THOUGHT: Victoria Rasho with PAWS Pet Therapy volunteer Jody Asquith and Rey. Jody's job is spreading love to people with life-threatening illnesses. Picture: Chris Lane
PAWS FOR THOUGHT: Victoria Rasho with PAWS Pet Therapy volunteer Jody Asquith and Rey. Jody's job is spreading love to people with life-threatening illnesses. Picture: Chris Lane

At what is often an unspeakable time for patients and their families, Rey talks a different language. The language of love.

Rey -- a three-year-old Jack Russell -- is a frequent visitor to Liverpool Hospital's palliative-care patients. Together with another PAWS Pet Therapy pooch, Bunny, they roam the corridors of Ward 4C and sit on the beds with patients who request a cuddle.

The smiles Rey generates as she peeks her wet, black nose into rooms are infectious. The pooches are treated like rock stars as they enter the ward with staff always on hand to say hello.

Pawfect compnaion: Maria Bakic says hello to Rey during a visit to Liverpool Hospital last week. Rey is owned by PAWS Pet Therapy's Jody Asquith. Picture: Chris Lane

Pawfect compnaion: Maria Bakic says hello to Rey during a visit to Liverpool Hospital last week. Rey is owned by PAWS Pet Therapy's Jody Asquith. Picture: Chris Lane

Last month, during National Palliative-Care Week, the Champion was invited to join Rey and her goofy smile, wagging tail and huge heart as she did her rounds.

Led by PAWS Pet Therapy volunteer JodyAsquith she had one mission -- to spread love to people with life-threatening illnesses.

First up was VictoriaRasho, of HorsleyPark who has motor-neurone disease. She then went to visit Smithfield resident MariaBakic.

The results were always the same -- big smiles and lots of love to the patients and their families.

Liverpool Hospital Palliative Care's end-of-life care co-ordinator NaomiEllis said people don't have to speak to see the effect these dogs have.

Pet therapy is great for the patients but also the families as well. The relatives get just as much out of it as the patients.

NAOMI ELLIS

"Look at Victoria's smile, it's worth a thousand words," she said. "Patients can be here for days, weeks or months on end so it's like a little bit of home, especially for those who have animals and it's a great distraction from the clinical environment. Pet therapy is great for the patients but also the families as well. The relatives get just as much out of it as the patients."

PAWS Pet Therapy is a non-profit charitable organisation which trains volunteers and their pooches to provide pet-assisted therapy to people in hospital, nursing homes, and university.

The organisation also runs a Paw'n'Tales program which helps children with reading difficulties increase their literacy skills and confidence by reading to a dog.

Palliative-care volunteers have helped fund PAWS Pet Therapy's visits which started this year.

This year's theme for National Palliative-Care Week was "What matters most?"

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