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Cruft Success for Therapy Dogs Harley, Dotty, and Dasha

St Oswald’s Hospice Therapy Dogs Harley (7), Dotty (8) and Dasha (17 months) recently took part in the world’s largest dog show – Crufts - and St Oswald’s Hospice staff, volunteers, patients and families couldn’t be prouder of how they did!

The trio of Borzoi’s (Russian Wolfhound) and their owner Julie Marvin from Ponteland, have been visiting St Oswald’s Hospice patients and families for over six years. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 these visits had to stop but everyone is thrilled that they are now back. The dogs are well known throughout the Hospice and patients, children and young adults look forward to their visits. Julie explained:

“Last weekend we took part in Crufts and they all did fantastically well. Dasha won her class (Junior Bitch), Harley came 2nd in a very strong class which was full of Champions (Open Dog) and he also won the Good Citizen Dog class. Dotty came 5th in the Open Bitch class which is for Champions, and won the Good Citizen Bitch class.

“I’ve been volunteering at the Hospice for ten years now and during that time have been to Crufts most years. The team at the Hospice are always very supportive so it was great to let them all know how we did this year.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be back volunteering, we had almost two years of not being able to and it’s lovely to be back. Harley especially seems to have really enjoyed all of the extra attention and cuddles!

“I really enjoy going to the Hospice, as does Harley and Dotty - Dasha has only managed one visit so far and she was a little confused by it all, but she loved being stroked”

When asked about the benefits of therapy dogs Julie added:

“It is very difficult to measure the benefits but it is proven that stroking an animal can lower the blood pressure and release hormones to make you feel better. Sometimes you see something really special, on one occasion on the Inpatient Ward we knocked at the door of a room where we had visited a gentleman for several weeks. On this occasion his wife said that he had been totally unresponsive for over 24 hours and she didn't think he would be aware we were there, but she asked if we could go and talk to him anyway. We went over to the bed and put his hand onto Dotty's head, his wife moved his hand so he was stroking Dotty he then said 'dog'. His wife was so happy that she knew he was still aware and she could talk to him knowing he could hear her.

“Occasions like this make volunteering very worthwhile. The dogs and I have always loved visiting. All the staff are really supportive and make us feel very welcome. It is such a positive and happy place to volunteer.”

Jocelyn Thompson, Matron, Children and Young Adult Service said:

“During lockdown we have really missed the visits from Harley, Dotty and Dasha. The children and the care team love to see them and to stroke their beautiful soft coats.

“They are perfect therapy dogs for the children and young adults as they have lovely calm natures and are just the right height to stroke when you are sitting in a wheel chair.

“We’re so pleased to hear of their success at Crufts ……Congratulations to Julie and well done to Harley, Dotty and Dasha – we can’t wait to see their rosettes once they have recovered from their trip.”