With Crufts 2019 just finished and thoughts of our canine friends still on our minds this article features three Somerset volunteers and their family pets.

These CSW volunteers undertake regular visits into their local community hospital, taking with them their much loved dogs.

These therapeutic visits are all about animals helping humans. The volunteers share their time and their pets with people in need, bringing comfort and companionship to patients who appreciate being able to touch and stroke a friendly animal.

The dogs (and their human companions) go on ‘rounds’ and ward staff will have alerted them to who would like a visit.

For patients who cannot take their own dog into hospital the visiting dog brings a bit of normality.

Our volunteers tell us how patients’ faces light up when they see the dog coming towards them. The volunteers say they get real pleasure out of seeing how happy the dogs make patients feel.

Some patients may have suffered a stroke or be visually or hearing impaired so unable to carry out a conversation.  In these cases the volunteers don’t even need to talk to the patient. For patients who may be experiencing confusion or difficulty interacting it is enough that they are petting the dog.  They don’t need to struggle with words or conversation as the dog gives them unconditional attention.

The science behind it: spending time with or petting a dog can increase levels of the hormone oxytocin and promote a sense of wellbeing. Petting an animal also increases the production of endorphins, which can promote relaxation, help to relieve anxiety and ease pain.

At Williton Hospital Rona and her dog Charlie visit every week. Rona really thinks Charlie is the ‘best in class’. (Picture 1)

At Wincanton Hospital Carol takes Tangle onto the ward every week and buys small dog treats especially so that all the patients who pet Tangle can give her a treat. (Picture 2)

Diana takes Pru into Crewkerne Hospital. Pru is placid enough (and tall enough) to lay her head on the bed beside patients and allow them to pet her. (Picture 3)