There’s a new local voluntary organisation in Sussex that provides temperament-assessed therapy cats and dogs for those in need throughout the county. All our members are volunteers who take their own pets to visit residential care homes, special/mainstream schools, hospitals, hospices and other similar organisations. We are a group of volunteers who believe that animals provide a source of companionship, love and comfort that is unique.
To be suitable the dog or cat must be people-oriented, not too excitable but not too nervous as they may come across unexpected noises and unusual behavior during their visit. If, after a series of simple tasks, the pet is suitable, then we discuss with the volunteer what kind of place they would like to visit and what might best suit their animal. Once approved, visits are usually conducted weekly or fortnightly depending on the volunteer’s availability and the needs of the patients to be visited.
SCP Volunteer Terry who visits the stroke unit at The Royal Sussex County Hospital with his therapy dog Sparkie writes: “Sussex Caring Pets is all about sharing your therapy cat or dog with local people in need, whether they are on the long road to recovery after a serious illness, have a physical or mental disability or are young people with special needs. Our team of volunteers work alongside other professionals to make this happen.
“I began volunteering with my therapy dog by a visit to the Royal Sussex’s stroke unit. I was so impressed with the care and dedication of the NHS nursing staff that I felt quite inadequate at first. But Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has a real role to play in complementing the other forms of rehabilitation undertaken by the professionals and we’re able, through the touch of a furry head, or a paw held in a hand, to stimulate those who may not have felt motivated to communicate before. I remember one elderly and very frail lady on this unit who, as many people do when they have a stroke, had lost her speech. Each week I would place Sparkie on the chair next to her bed and the nurse would kindly lower the bed so the lady had eye contact with my gentle furry friend. For ten minutes each week this would happen and it was always a pleasure to see how Sparkie and this frail lady would gaze into each other’s eyes. This silence said so much – a few tears would begin to run down the elderly lady’s face and then Sparkie would rest his head on the lady’s hand.
“So perhaps you can see why I am a true believer in the benefits of AAT and the work that SCP volunteers do with their cats and dogs in so many different ways throughout Sussex. Only last week while on the stroke unit with Sparkie, one patient’s son said it was the first time that he had seen his mother smile since she was admitted, a reward in itself. Therapy dog Sparkie and I are a great team and I am proud of that I am a volunteer with this local voluntary organisation and it’s a privilege to share Sparkie with the patients.”
To join costs £19 per year which goes towards annual insurance cover. SCP has no paid staff or government funding. All our work is carried out by our team of volunteers. To find out how to volunteer with your cat or dog, or see how to support us in other ways perhaps by making a donation or sponsoring a Sussex Caring Pets therapy dog or cat, please visit our website: www.sussexcaringpets.org or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org You can also give us a call on 07818-743762 or 07551-071268.