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Canine companions provide comfort to hospital patients

PIC1_Rebus and Richard_Louise and Betty_Sara and Otis

22 December 2017

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A whole new breed of hospital visitor is brightening the lives of patients at York Hospital with the introduction of therapy dogs.

The Pets for Therapy (PAT) charity has provided three doggy guests, Otis, Betty and Rebus, who come into the hospital once a week providing a much needed boost for both inpatients and outpatients.

Evidence has revealed that spending time with, or petting, a dog or cat increases levels of wellbeing hormones and helps to combat feelings of loneliness. Petting or playing with an animal promotes a feeling of relaxation, which can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and reduce physical issues such as pain.

People waiting for appointments have welcomed the distraction and enjoy the unconditional love provided by the canine companions.

Helen Humphrey-Shepherd, sister for outpatients, said: “Everybody loves it when the PAT dogs come in, both patients and staff. It lifts the atmosphere and takes people’s minds off their problems for a while. The dogs are specially trained to be friendly and enjoy people stroking them. They stay on their leads at all times so people who are not so keen can avoid them if they want to.”

Betty is full of tricks and often visits the dementia ward and entertains patients with her one-dog show. Dogs in particular have been found to help reduce the effects of dementia—anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression, and loneliness.

Betty’s owner, Louise Wilson, is delighted to offer Betty’s services as a PAT dog.

Louise said: “I knew straight away that Betty would make a great therapy dog. She just loves people and all the attention she gets doing her tricks. It certainly catches the interest of patients, even people with communication problems.

“Patients with dementia become more interactive, often it triggers memories of their own pets so they start talking or sometimes it just provides some comfort when they want to stroke her. It’s very satisfying to see the difference a visit from a dog can make to people in hospital.”

Pets As Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983. It provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament tested and vaccinated dogs and cats. To find out more visit

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Looking down a long bright hospital corridor with treatment rooms on the left and windows on the right. At the bottom of the corridor is one member of staff in a blue nursing uniform

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