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Thursday, 22 June  2006  Hospital Dogs

Find out about a project that brings dogs into hospitals and nursing homes, to cheer up patients and residents.


SIMON ROYAL: The dog squad is on the move but these hounds aren't sniffing out drugs or bombs, their mission is to seek people who need unconditional love and then deliver it.

FEMALE: Hello Alan, here is Jessie. Are you going to say hello today, Jess?

SIMON ROYAL: Today Jessie the cocker spaniel and her owner Elaine Penberthy are visiting Alan Gardner in Daw house Hospice.

ALAN GARDNER: There is just something about her personality. She is bursting with personality and charm, as you can see. She is just a loveable character.

SIMON ROYAL: The hospice has been Alan Gardner's home for three months. Coincidentally he arrived here at the same time the pet partners team started their visits. Alan Gardner has cancer, what he prizes most is some independence.

ALAN GARDNER: Very important, very important. And that's where these creatures come along and make it more easy for you to tolerate. You accept this more easily. You don't hear her complain, that's what sort of makes it so good to have them.

SIMON ROYAL: 27 dogs and their owners form the team. They go to hospitals and nursing homes throughout the State.

FEMALE: Did you come to see Maureen?

SIMON ROYAL: But Daw House is the only hospice they visit. The Daw House dogs are screened against diseases which might be passed on to humans such as salmonella. But before they set a paw in here they must first pass a far tougher test.

ALEXIS DAVISON (CO ORDINATOR PET PARTNERS): We have a range of volunteers who quite enjoy actually dressing up in different costumes using things like walking frames and wheelchairs, being very loud and obnoxious to the dogs basically and we see if the dogs cope with that and they are still wagging their tails and enjoying the attention, then basically those dogs are the ones that we look for.

SIMON ROYAL: Do they always behave themselves, have you ever seen the dog disgrace itself?

ALAN GARDNER: No, actually no, they behave better than some humans I think.

PROF. DAVID CURROW (DAW HOUSE HOSPICE): There is no doubt that dogs in our program have been a wonderful tool for people to open up and discuss things than otherwise they may not discuss. When you talk to a golden retriever you can be confident that you will be loved just as you are and you can say whatever you need to and it will be safe to do so and we can't underestimate how important those opportunities are as people's lives are drawing to a close.

SIMON ROYAL: But what of the impact of dying on the dogs? In the late 1980s Bobo the poodle pioneered Pets as Therapy.
He moved into the hospice as a full time resident. But the love and loyalty that made Bobo such a wonderful companion also left him vulnerable. He simply couldn't cope with the constant loss.

DAVID ROACH (FORMER DAW HOUSE SOCIAL WORKER): It was very hard for Bobo to make that adjustment and that's when we discovered that those losses were significant for him.

What we didn't sort of plan for was just how much attention we needed to pay to his emotional wellbeing and so that's why we decided in the end rather than leaving him to live permanently in the hospice which he did for about two and a half years, he spent his whole days and nights there, that he would actually live, you know, apart and with somebody and we were people that he ended up living with.

SIMON ROYAL: Bobo's association with Daw House continued though. For 10 years he went to work with David Roach and went home at night and once again Daw House is Bobo's permanent home

Bobo's experience paved the way for the new program which began in December and both residents and dogs are happy.

ALAN GARDNER: You can't explain the amount of wonderful work that these volunteers do in so many capacities. It is really, they are just marvellous.



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English Bites - Hospital Dogs
story notes

hospice
A hospice is a hospital for people who are very sick, but don't need to be in a hospital. They just need to be looked after.

tolerate
To tolerate something means to put up with it.

passed on
transmitted

Example: His height has been passed on from his father.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb pass on, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: pass on

dressing up
putting on a costume or unusual clothes

Example: I'm going to dress up as a policeman.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb dress up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: dress up

seen
Seen is the past participle of the irregular verb see. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: see

open up
relax and talk freely

Example: He opened up after drinking a bottle of wine.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb open up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: open up

drawing to a close
Something that is drawing to a close is about to finish.

Example: The film is drawing to a close.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

resident
The patients actually live there, so they are called residents.

loyalty
Loyalty is the act of being faithful and true and committed to something. We often say that dogs are loyal because they stay with their owners and never leave them.

companion
A companion is a friend.

left
Here left is the past tense of the irregular verb leave. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: leave

vulnerable
Vulnerable means sensitive and not protected against emotional hurt.

ended up
finish in a situation or place after a series of events

Example: You'll end up without a job if you're always late.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb end up, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: end up

went
Went is the past participle of the irregular verb go. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: go

paved the way
prepared the way

Example: The new discovery will pave the way for even more discoveries in the years to come.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

began
Began is the past tense of the irregular verb begin. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: begin
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