A former homeless hound from Dogs Trust, UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has become a therapy dog at a care home, providing love and companionship to residents in Ipswich.
Initially found as a stray and cared for by Dogs Trust’s Basildon Rehoming Centre, Lily the Collie Cross was adopted by Anne Goad from Coddenham in January 2016. Despite Lily’s energetic nature, Anne noticed how calming and gentle she was with a family member who had an acquired brain injury. Anne, 63, explained:
“My cousin, Brian Mellowship, sadly had a brain aneurysm in 2013 and also suffered with agoraphobia, causing a great deal of social isolation. He was transferred to the Baylham Care Centre closer to where I live, in Suffolk, and we were looking at how we could improve his quality of life. Lily is usually incredibly excitable – she has a lot of energy and loves agility and Flyball – although when I introduced her to Brian at the care home she instantly became calm and gentle in his company.
“Brian was supported by local charity, Headway Suffolk. When they saw Lily interact with him, they thought she’d make a good candidate for their ‘Brainy Dog’ programme, which trains therapy and companion dogs for patients with acquired brain injuries and dementia.”
Headway provides support, advice and rehabilitation to adults who have sustained a brain injury through a traumatic accident, stroke, virus, tumour or neurological conditions. The charity trained Lily through its scheme that works with inmates from Hollesley Bay Prison that are approaching the end of long-term sentences, whereby they train the dogs to aid their rehabilitation into society.
Anne continued: “Lily is amazing with the care home residents. She visits them twice a week and laps up all the love and snuggles – she will instinctively go up to people and ask for cuddles. When Headway trained Lily, she was so smart that she was taught techniques to support individuals with brain injuries that have lost speech. Care residents can communicate through pointing and Lily will respond. She loves the interaction as much as they do. Some of the elderly patients at Baylham miss their family pets, so they equally enjoy their time together.”
Helen Fairweather, CEO at Headway Suffolk, said: “Often after a brain injury or neurological condition people can experience loneliness and life changes which can sadly result in them losing contact with friends and family or they may find social situations rather difficult. Our Brainy Dogs programme really helps lift people out of depression and offers support and comfort during challenging times, giving people a purpose in life.
“Lily has such a sweet and gentle character and she’s a quick learner. Whether it’s stimulation through grooming or playing hide and seek, the positive impact that therapy dogs have on individuals – they can really help boost communication and motor skills, as well as aiding mobility, such as helping those in wheelchairs with picking up items. The interaction with a four-legged friend is life-changing for our clients – even if it’s just having a cuddle or walking.
“Hollesley Bay’s rehabilitation programme allows inmates from the open prison to apply for a training job with us, which helps reintegrate them back into the community as well as preparing them for interviews and work, therefore enhancing communication skills. It also makes individuals think twice about violence when a client has a head injury as a result of being hit.”