Peg is one and a half years old, very scruffy, small and black with a ginger moustache. She’s a Schnoodle, one of the ubiquitous hypo-allergenic poodle crosses.
She’s a comical sort of dog,” says her owner, TV and film actor, Paul Bazely, most well-known for his role as Troy in ITV’S hit comedy Benidorm, “and she’s been a huge hit with my two children. She’s very loving and she makes us all laugh all of the time. She doesn’t bark, she talks to us! So she’s a much-loved family pet but now her role extends beyond the family. She loves people especially children, and twice a month she wears what I call her ‘vest of honour’ in her role as a Sussex Caring Pet therapy dog.
Paul was approached at a local summer fete and dog show to be a celebrity volunteer member for the charity and he jumped at the chance. Peg was ‘auditioned’ at the age of nine months to become a therapy dog – to check whether she had a suitable temperament and she passed with flying colours. Paul and SCP therapy dog Peg have since become regular visitors to the Cedar Centre School for children with special needs in Hollingdean and the Princess Alexandra House Care Home for older people.
“I get an awful lot out of it, “ says Paul, “and Peg loves all the attention! The senior citizens enjoy petting Peg. Dogs are, of course, naturally therapeutic and Peg’s gentleness and responsiveness seems to relax and unlock them in some way. The elderly residents reminisce about the past in a way which I find fascinating. Peg’s presence means we have an instant topic of conversation, an instant bond – she facilitates the connection between us and the talk just flows. She’s also rather partial to the biscuits they reward her with!”
The trips to the Cedar Centre Special School are much more energetic.
“The children are lively, full of questions about Peg and also what it’s like to be a TV actor. Peg gets a lot of exercise on those days with the children! A lot of the young adults have problems with concentration, but Peg brings out a gentleness in them, a caring side to their nature which is very touching to see.” Paul has found his work for the charity immensely rewarding: “I can see that the SCP therapy dogs really seem to show a special sensitivity towards vulnerable children and adults.”
These caring therapy dogs also do visits to local hospitals and hospices and their arrival is always greeted with laughter from the staff as well as the patients. “Peg is very stimulated by her visits and she always sleeps well on her ‘working’ days! I like that the charity is locally based and helps to forge links with the local community. It has brought me closer to Peg and made me appreciate what a gift owning a pet can be – a gift which can easily be shared. As someone in the public eye it’s also rather good for me to see that on these occasions my dog gets more attention than I do!”
About Sussex Caring Pets
SCP believes that animal assisted therapy provides a source of companionship, comfort and stimulation that is unique and also underpins the work done by the professionals. Our teams of volunteers regularly visit residential care homes, special/mainstream schools, hospitals and hospices.
To be suitable your dog or cat must be people-oriented – not excitable and not nervous as they may come across unexpected noises and unusual behaviour during their visit. If, after a series of simple tasks, we agree that 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 place to be visited.
To find out how to volunteer, or see how to support us in other ways, please visit our website: www.sussexcaringpets.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0779 646 8291.
To receive an application form please send a S.A.E. to: SCP, 80 Oaklands Avenue, Saltdean, Brighton BN2 8PA or see our website.