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Retiring pet therapy dogs at Southampton General Hospital are replaced
THEY are a grrr-eat way of getting patients smiling again during long stays on a hospital ward.
But after years of dedicated service, two of Southampton General Hospital’s longest serving pet therapy dogs are putting their paws up as old age starts to take its toll.
Cognac the border collie and Fred the Irish wolfhound, who between them have 12 years’ experience cheering up poorly adults and children on the wards, are retiring because of aching back legs and arthritis.
However, patients need not fear as the hospital has already lined up the paw-fect replacements for the ageing duo – Flora the Norfolk terrier and three-year-old Badger.
Raising smiles Cognac and Fred have become real stars around the hospital over the years, raising smiles wherever they go and helping patients to relax and de-stress during their treatments.
Cognac and his owner Sue Cole have been regular faces on the wards for eight years but Cognac has been having trouble with his back legs, slipping on the hospital’s hard floors.
Sue, from Romsey, said: “He loves it and has an amazing ability to look at people and wag his tail, making them feel special. It is amazing to see how a simple visit from Cognac makes people smile and changes their whole body language.”
Hanging up his lead too, six-yearold Fred is suffering from arthritis and is going to miss all the attention he gets from the patients after four years of making weekly visits.
His owner Karen Scott added: “He gets such a great reaction from everybody. He is so calm and gentle that the children love jumping all over him and the older patients were able to stroke him without getting out of bed because he is so big. He loved every minute of it.
But hot on their tails is little Flora and young Badger, who have already made a great impression with the patients.
All the dogs are specially trained Pets As Therapy dogs and are put through their paces by the hospital’s voluntary services manager, Kim Sutton, who interviews all the dogs – and their owners – before they go on to the wards.
She said: “It makes a tremendous difference to have these dogs on the wards because it normalises a person’s stay, it makes them smile and it gives the patients something in common to talk about.
“Studies have also shown that smoothing a dog is very therapeutic and relaxing for a patient, especially for those who are missing their own dogs at home.
• Call 01845 345445 to find out more about Pets As Therapy.