For many years visiting dogs have lifted people’s spirits, they have encouraged older people to leave the confines of their rooms for the first time in weeks, to use their hand post-stroke or surgery, to walk, to talk, to smile, to laugh, to remember and to reminisce about their own animals.
Volunteers all describe the impact of visiting dogs in a similar way. When they walk into a hospital or a nursing home, everyone’s eyes light up at the sight of the dog. A great deal has been written about the positive effects of dogs on human health, studies have shown effects such as the lowering of blood pressure, reduction of anxiety and people feeling calmer and happier through the increase in hormone levels. A dog in a care or medical facility can lift the atmosphere, making it feel less sterile at the time and after the visit.
The North East is a region of dog lovers. A 2014 survey of pet ownership in Britain shows people in the North East are the biggest dog lovers in the country with the Pet Food Manufacturers Association showing a massive 36% of households having at least one dog compared with the UK average of 24%.
But we mustn’t forget our volunteers; our visits are not just about the dogs of course. Our volunteers are the people who make these visits happen, they make new friends with the people we visit, they are sharing stories and a joke and in some cases are helping to facilitate a change of scene. Their dogs are important ice breakers, providing common interests and immediate talking points.