The assistive power of therapy pets by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee
At ubu we strive to enable the people we serve to lead more independent lives and to be able to take part in their surrounding communities, no matter what their ability or background. For many of us, coming home from work or from our day’s activities means time to relax and enjoy some calm after a long day. Having a pet’s unconditional love and companionship is wonderful because it can also uplift and motivate us to be more active and caring.
Therapy pets such as my own dog, Chutzpah, genuinely enhances my health and wellbeing. They can enable and support people with daily tasks and provide wonderful ‘friendship’ and company when we’re alone or out in the community. Organisations like Pets As Therapy (PAT) can assess an animals behaviour and help to train and acknowledge their ability to offer therapeutic support. I’ve seen some fantastic results in the ways our therapy dogs are helping to improve the quality of the lives of people we serve. We’ve witnessed some powerful engagement by and with Chutzpah and the other therapy dogs, Jack, Maisie and Milo who work at our Hub office in Harrogate and when we are out and about visiting and meeting people.
These naturally generous beings are not just friends, family members or protectors enhancing companionship, they can and do assist people who have disabilities and health difficulties like dementia or who are living with autism and loneliness, by helping to improve and generate confidence and wellbeing in both. Actually it can be both inspiring and beautiful to witness the interactions these animals have with people we serve.
The therapy dogs at ubu are increasingly becoming a necessity in many of our services because their work supports the unequalled enabling provided by ubu team members. They enable those we serve to gain greater independence by helping them with simple tasks, creating happiness, joy and companionship just by being available to touch, stroke and pet. Perhaps best of all, they give people an opportunity to wind down and relax when they are feeling anxious or upset.
Every person and their needs and behaviours are different. What a dull world it would be if that weren’t true. We’ve seen that that’s case for therapy pets too. If we continue thinking about how our PAT registered dogs act as an integral part of our ubu community, understanding and acknowledging their diversity, temperament and abilities can ensure that we can design and cater to each individual’s needs when they are suitably and thoughtfully paired.
Imagine, if you will, when therapy pets such as ours are taught new and bespoke skills suited to enabling and supporting the people we work with they can completely transform, energise and enhance lifestyle and opportunities to achieve greater independence. Turning light switches on and off, closing and opening doors, picking up things which have been dropped, barking appropriately to attract attention, gently tugging at sleeves or socks in order to help undress and with general safeguarding and security.
Respect and responsibility are values we treasure and instil in everything we do. We know that these values need to be owned by everyone. As every individual needs to feel loved and be cared for, so do our animals. We work towards activities that engage the people we serve, like something as simple yet necessary as walking the dog every day. It promotes the positive feeling of being a part of the community and creates fantastic opportunities to socialise with other owners and the people one meets along the way. There are other values that we believe strongly in and teach each other and those we serve; like openness and honesty in how we relate to one another, accountability and clarity in what we do and especially fairness and kindness in our actions. These intrinsic values have been proved irreplaceable in building a more holistic approach to how we all lead our lives.
Len is one of the gentlemen we serve who’s therapy dog will be able to assist him by being able to turn on and off the lights, open and close his door and be his voice to speak in emergencies. Len’s dog will also be able to help him with undressing and other daily tasks. Stay tuned, we’re confident that it’s going to develop into being an amazing addition to the enabling support ubu already provides.
These incredible therapy animals offer everyone the chance to have a friend, enjoy positive behavioural support and to be able to rely on enabling assistance whenever it’s needed. Our next truly audacious goal is to ensure that all the regions and areas that we work in have access to and the support of therapy dogs like Chutzpah, Jack, Maisie and Milo. We are working very purposively towards finding realistic and innovative ways to raise funding, find suitable owners and the teachers needed to provide this opportunity to everyone we serve who would like it.