A retired man from Partridge Green, who befriends the elderly and special needs patients in the Horsham district with his wife and dog, has shared his experiences being a volunteer for Sussex Caring Pets (SCP).
Ray and Ann Allison, and Missy, who ‘looks like a little lamb’, have been visiting patients and residents at Horsham Hospital’s Horizon Ward and at Croft Meadow care home in Steyning once a month each for the last 18 months.
Ray said: “I’ve been very fortunate in my life, I’ve not spent a lot of time in hospitals but having done this I do realise that many of the patients we visit are older patients and in some cases, don’t see anybody while they are there - the families don’t always come to visit them and there are very pleased that somebody comes in and says hello.”
All the charity’s volunteers’ therapy support cats and dogs are temperament-assessed by a vet.
The couple make appointments with a nurse before any visit.
Ray said most people ‘adore’ meeting Missy, 8, a Bedlington terrier, whom he introduces by lifting her up to the patient.
He continued: “She woofs when she feels we’ve been talking too long and it relieves the tension.”
On the impact of the visits on the patients, Ray said: “I think it’s a nice thing to do to help others who are not in a position to have a pet or are in hospital because they have an illness.
“The conversation can be very very two-way between you and them and for them, I think it can be very rewarding.”
Graham Bourgoing, chair of SCP and a special needs teacher, of Brighton, said: “We are all volunteers and have joined SCP because we believe that animal assisted therapy is a valuable complement to the work done by the professionals.
“Our therapy support pets can help stimulate those who might feel isolated or not feel motivated to communicate with others, with their non-judgmental affection.”
For more information on SCP, including other volunteers’ stories, visit their website.