Meet The Therapy Dogs Helping Older People Feel Less Lonely

Dogs aren’t called man’s best friend for nothing. With their loyal, affectionate and funny little ways, they can cheer us up on the saddest of days.

It is perhaps the elderly that benefit from the companionship of a dog more than anyone else. But often, older people are unable to have a dog of their own.

That’s where Paws For Wellbeing come in. Set up in November 2016 thanks to lottery funding, they are working to tackle the isolation and loneliness of older people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Run by a team of volunteers, the group has ten dogs that are used to visit the elderly in their homes or in hospitals and care homes, providing them with a very therapeutic opportunity to stroke, play with and talk to a dog.

We at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear couldn’t be more thrilled to sponsor them, and we asked one of their volunteers, Gina, to share a little bit about how Paws for Wellbeing works.

‘I saw the powerful effect dogs can have on wellbeing for myself when my uncle was admitted to a residential care home following a cancer diagnosis a few years ago,’ Gina says.

‘My uncle also had schizophrenia and he struggled to adapt to life in a care home. He really missed his closest companions, his beloved cats, so I started taking my two dogs to visit him.

‘Just playing with the dogs in the garden for a short time really cheered him up and helped him cope with his illness. And it wasn’t just him. Many of the other residents also loved to stop and interact with the dogs.

‘This experience made me realise how therapeutic the human-animal bond is and how we need to ensure that older people have the opportunity to interact with animals.

Paws for Wellbeing aims to reach out to the many older people who are lonely and socially isolated. Lots of these people have previously had dogs as part of their family and miss the joy and companionship a dog can bring. 

To add something extra to the traditional ‘meet & greet’ format of existing therapy dog organisations, the organisation uses Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear toys and games to encourage interaction and add fun to the sessions.

Patients in hospitals find playing games a great distraction from their illness and many of the older people particularly enjoy the chance to groom a dog.

We’ll be writing more on the blog about Paws For Wellbeing, including some details on how they select their dogs and what training they do.

In the meantime, we thought you might like a brief introduction to two of Paws For Wellbeing’s top dogs…

Tink

Tink is a beautiful shitzu cross who is 14-years-old but very young at heart.

Tink has the sweetest temperament and manages to charm everyone who meets her. She is naturally a confident and well-travelled little dog, having previously lived in Turkey. 

Tink visits several local care homes and the residents enjoy brushing her, stroking her and even singing her songs. Tink enjoys playing with a range of interactive toys and works well in a team alongside our other dogs.

Charlie
Charlie is an 8-year-old rescued ex-racing greyhound. He is naturally very calm and steady, and he loves interacting with people.

He regularly visits patients on several wards at a local psychiatric hospital. Charlie’s height means he is easy for older people to reach to stroke and he will often bury his head into people's laps for a fuss.

Charlie loves his food and he enjoys playing with our range of interactive toys during his sessions with Paws For Wellbeing. The Clam is a particularly great toy for Charlie as he can enjoy pouncing on it and then use his lovely long nose to open it and retrieve the treat! 

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