A Somerset woman with a life-long passion for dogs is sharing the love with vulnerable people near her home in Bridgwater, thanks to the charity Pets As Therapy.
Four-year-old Bow, Bev Stanley’s schnoodle - a schnauzer/poodle cross - has become a firm favourite with the people living with dementia at Wellington care home Camelot House and Lodge.
Bev first got involved with Pets As Therapy after the death of her elderly father, for whom she was a carer.
Bow used to accompany Bev on visits to see her dad in a nursing home during his last illness. She had been part of his life since she was a puppy, and Bev says it was always obvious how Bow’s presence used to brighten him up.
With some time on her hands after her father passed on, Bev heard about the Pets As Therapy scheme and thought Bow would be a perfect candidate.
Bev said: “We met the assessor in a noisy coffee shop so she could see how Bow would react to sudden noises – it wouldn’t do if she was easily alarmed or got over-excited around people.
“The assessor agreed that Bow has the ideal temperament for a PAT dog, so we registered and did the training.
“Naturally health and safety precautions must be observed, but Bow is such a loving and gentle dog and the residents at Camelot House and Lodge all adore her.
“She delicately picks up her front paws to show she’d like to sit on a chair beside them, if they’d like that. It clearly brings them such pleasure to stroke and talk to her, and she loves it too.”
Bev’s 17-year-old daughter Evie – a pupil at Wellington School - is jointly registered with her mother so she can accompany her on the fortnightly visits with Bow to Camelot House and Lodge in Wellington.
Bev said: “We usually stay about an hour and a half, and there’s always a proper buzz in the air. I’m awestruck by the range of activities provided for residents.
“Bow and I have been visiting regularly since June last year, and I can honestly say there’s always something engaging going on at Camelot House and Lodge - such a genuinely inspiring and happy place. We’re glad to be part of it.”
Richard Dempslake, activities co-ordinator at Camelot House and Lodge, said: “Research shows that stroking or playing with an animal increases certain hormone levels, and brings about an improved sense of well-being on many levels, so we know Bow’s visits provide a real therapeutic boost for the people we support
“And it’s lovely to see how happy it makes our residents when they are able to spend time with her.”
Experts have shown that spending time with animals can genuinely benefit people’s physical health, with those who pet or play with a dog or cat, even for just five minutes, benefitting from lowered blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health.
It is also known that enjoying a pet’s company promotes a feeling of relaxation, which in turn can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and reduce physical issues such as pain. Further details are available from www.petsastherapy.org
Camelot House & Lodge is run by award-winning specialist dementia care provider Camelot Care, which also runs Avalon Nursing Home in Bridgwater and Freshfields in Plymouth www.camelotcare.co.uk