First Dog Days at Forth Valley Royal Hospital

The first four-legged friends to visit patients in Forth Valley Royal Hospital padded into Wards 4 and 5 in the Mental Health Unit to be met with smiles and affection. Jamie the whippet and Shadow the lurcher are part of the Therapet scheme designed to use specially-trained animals to promote health, hope and healing.

The visit was organised by June Valentine, NHS Forth Valley Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioner, who had already arranged similar doggy days when she worked at Bo’ness Hospital and Clackmannanshire Community Healthcare Centre.

June explained: “The dogs provide great comfort for people who are distressed. For example, the more able patients were able to watch a film this morning but this afternoon it was the turn of others to have some enjoyment. When they see the dogs their faces say it all.”

With a dog policy already in place strict guidelines had to be followed, involving a number of risk assessments. Relatives and carers were all asked whether loved ones had any allergies or phobias and notices had to be placed on doors advising staff with allergies that dogs would be in the wards that day.

NHS Forth Valley Senior Charge Nurse, Colette Quigley, added: “It’s been great for patients who don’t usually participate in routine activities. They clap the dogs, chat to them and enjoy the interaction. We get increased response from patients afterwards; for some of them it brings back memories and we’ve even had tears from a couple of people. One patient has been following us around the wards with the dogs, and another was moving people out of the way to get to the dogs.”

Jamie, owned by Janette Kean and Shadow, who belongs to Bryan Robertson, will alternate visits, to ensure a therapet is able to visit the hospital for one day every week.