A SPECIAL visitor with a sweet and friendly nature is lifting the spirits of patients in Basildon Hospital.
Ava, a two-year-old border terrier, does her ward rounds on the first Tuesday of every month with owner Clare Wright. They drop in to have a chat with patients who love dogs and say they would welcome a visit.
Clare, a vet from Corringham, is part of the Pets as Therapy (PAT) project, a national charity that provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, care homes and other venues from volunteers with their own dogs and cats.
Since she began visiting the hospital six months ago, Ava has brought a smile to the faces of scores of patients, many of whom are badly missing their own pets.
Mr James Lofthouse, from South Ockenden, was delighted to meet Ava during his recent stay in hospital. He has a Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Lulu, being looked after by his daughter Linda while he is away from home.
Mr Lofthouse said: “I think it is a good idea to bring a dog to visit people in hospital because they are the most friendly animals you can think of. All the love you give them you get returned, and it can really cheer people up to have a visit from a dog.”
Clare said: “I trained Ava from when she was eight weeks old, and she has always had a lovely calm nature. She was assessed by PAT to make sure she didn’t jump up or paw people, or bark at them.
“She loves all the fuss attention she receives from patients when she is on her PAT dog duties.”
Ava began visiting Basildon Hospital in May, during dementia awareness week. The visits proved so popular with patients living with dementia that they were extended to patients with other conditions.
Jane Gilby, dementia lead nurse, who introduced the PAT scheme into Basildon Hospital, said: “It’s well documented that pets are very good for people’s wellbeing. Ava’s visits are incredibly popular with patients on all wards. We always check first to make sure people would like to see her, and we have had an overwhelmingly positive response.”
All cats and dogs in the PAT scheme are assessed to make sure they have a suitable temperament for hospital visits, and receive the necessary vaccinations and infection treatments. Ava’s visits to Basildon Hospital were planned in liaison with the infection control nurses.