South Devon’s Rowcroft Hospice has had a recent visit from an unusual volunteer ‘therapist’ – of the four-legged variety. Poppy, a rescued German shepherd dog, visited the hospice with her owner, Derek Taylor, as part of the holistic care patients receive.
The mission of the hospice, whose care is rated ‘outstanding’ by the national Care Quality Commission, is to deliver personalised, specialist care to patients living with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Animal-assisted therapy has been recognised within the health and social care as a way to boost emotional and physical health for over 40 years.
Sharon Payne, a mother-of-one from Torquay who was referred to Rowcroft’s Inpatient Unit from Torbay Hospital, has particularly enjoyed meeting Poppy with her family and daughter Emilee, and the experience helped change her pre-conceptions of hospice care.
Sharon explained, “Initially, I didn’t want to come to Rowcroft. I felt frightened because I really thought this was the place where you came to die and that was it. But that’s not the case. Being here feels like a little retreat. I can listen to the fountain, look out across the beautiful gardens and see the sea. The staff and volunteers are amazing and so helpful and my daughter and I have had two sleepovers. Coming to Rowcroft has given me the time and the tranquillity to build up my strength before going home.”
Rowcroft Social Worker, Nicola Monks explains the positive impact pet therapy can bring; “At Rowcroft our focus is on patient-centred care. The positive impact pet therapy dogs have on the emotional wellbeing of patients can be remarkable. As humans, the need to show affection and compassion to other living creatures is an important part of our nature. Interacting with a therapy dog allows space to do this and can also help create precious memories with family members.”