A whole new breed of hospital visitor is brightening the lives of patients with spinal cord injuries at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH) with the introduction of therapy dogs.
The Therapy Dogs Nationwide charity has provided one doggy guest to visit patients on the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI), which is based at the Oswestry hospital, every fortnight.
Lola the Chihuahua, who is a temperament assessed therapy dog, will come into RJAH every fortnight, providing a much needed boost for patients, particularly those who are in hospital for a prolonged period of time – some of whom spend between six to nine months on spinal cord injury rehabilitation ward, Gladstone.
Kate Betts, Rehabilitation Technician on MCSI, was the driving force behind the introduction of the four-legged friend as therapy for the patients.
She said: “Everybody loves it when Lola comes in, both patients and staff. It really lifts the atmosphere and takes people’s minds off their problems for a while because everyone’s focus is on making sure they get a cuddle with her.
“Being a therapy dog, Lola is just the right temperament. She’s incredibly friendly and enjoys people stroking her. She stays on her lead at all times so people who are not so keen can avoid her if they want to.”
Violet Jenkins, who has been a patient on Gladstone Ward for more than three months, said she enjoys Lola’s visits.
She said: “It’s absolutely marvellous having Lola come in to see us. She lifts everyone’s spirits no end. It’s not easy being away from home for a long stretch of time, so for most of us, Lola feels like a bit of home is being brought into hospital for us. That’s really special.”
Lola’s owner, Jo Costa, who works with Therapy Dogs Nationwide, is more than happy to offer Lola’s services as a therapy dog.
She said: “Lola’s a really wonderful therapy dog because she loves being around people. She laps up all the attention she gets. Both patients and staff adore her, which is lovely to see.
“Being a Therapy Dogs Nationwide dog, Lola had to pass her temperament test, before becoming a therapy dog.
“I love seeing the comfort she brings to patients, and always find it really satisfying to see the difference a visit from a dog can make to people in hospital.”
Kate added: “I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Jo for her and Lola’s services, which are already making such a big difference to our patients.
“I must also thank our fantastic League of Friends, who have been wonderfully supportive in helping us to get this off the ground, organising the logistical side of things. This wouldn’t be happening without them.”
Pictured: MCSI patients with Lola, centre, with MCSI staff and League of Friends staff. Pictured right is Lola’s owner, Jo Costa, who works with Therapy Dogs Nationwide.