A gentle giant of the canine variety is proving to be a great hit with residents at a Sanctuary Care home in Worcester.
Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog Bentley regularly visits Cranham Residential Care Home in Warndon and – during national Mental Health Awareness Week (12 to 18 May) – the team at the home and the PAT charity are keen to highlight the therapeutic value of animals for people of all ages.
Manager at the home, which provides care for the elderly - including residential care and dementia care - Cindy Hawkins initially contacted PAT because she thought one shy gent would benefit from visits by one of its dogs.
The Bernese Mountain dog, who weighs eight-and-a-half-stone, was so popular that a year on he still visits the home every week.
Cindy said: “The residents absolutely love him and it is amazing to see him with them.
“Every Tuesday morning they ask if he is coming in and really look forward to his visits – of all the activities they enjoy here, seeing Bentley is a real highlight.
“The therapeutic value of animals is undeniable – stroking him is so relaxing.
“Some of our residents owned dogs before they moved here so Bentley gives them a wonderful sense of continuity and comfort.”
Resident Irene McCartney, who has lived at Cranham for over two years, said: “Bentley is so handsome and is absolutely beautiful.
“Everything lovely you could say about an animal – that’s Bentley. He is a lovely dog, a real beauty and very good therapy – he could brighten anyone’s day.”
Interacting with companion animals is becoming increasingly recognised as a therapeutic intervention and is supported by the World Health Organisation.
Animals are considered to be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation. Among other benefits, stroking them can reduce blood pressure, have a calming effect on the mind, promote relaxation and ease stress and anxiety.
Bentley is five and a half years old and his owner, PAT volunteer Judith Robson explained why even as a puppy, she knew he would make a perfect PAT dog.
“From the first day we got him people stopped us in the street to stroke him, she said.
“He will be walking past and people just smile, so we thought we’ve got to share him.”
Judith said Bentley brings such joy to the residents at Cranham and the other homes he visits.
“One lady in particular – her face just lights up whenever she sees him,” she added.
PAT volunteer teams provide therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes and all types of schools, where they help children with their literacy skills in the Read2Dogs programme.
They also work with practitioners to assist with stroke rehabilitation and people with dog phobias. Every week these calm and friendly pets visit thousands of people of all ages.
Every year the Mental Health Foundation campaigns around a specific theme for Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme for this year is anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.