• STV
  • MySTV

Meet the therapet dogs bringing joy to hospice patients

An Edinburgh hospice said the impact therapets have on improving patient mood is ‘phenomenal’.

Bounding towards the front door with their tails wagging in excitement, Maddie and Morgan's presence bring smiles to all who set eyes on them.

They stop in delight when approached for a pet and lap up the attention as they willingly cuddle in.

It's a sight which makes volunteers Ruth Davis and Jennifer Somerville proud having watched the Cocker Spaniels embrace their role of 'therapet' with abundant energy.

For the past 18 months, twins Ruth and Jennifer have been bringing Maddie and Morgan to St Columba's Hospice every fortnight to interact with the patients, staff and visitors.

The playful dogs, also twins, have been accredited by Canine Concern Scotland Trust (CCST) and are now a proud part of the 600-strong volunteer base at the Edinburgh hospice which provides specialist palliative and end of life care to people with terminal illnesses and their families across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Having been around dogs all of his life, in-patient Ian Gordon was delighted when the four-legged friends entered his room while his family were visiting.

"It brightens you up a bit and it takes away what you are feeling within yourself," Ian says while petting Maddie and Morgan. "It's very therapeutic."

Ian enjoyed a visit from the therapets while his grandchildren Faith and Louie Mackay were visiting.
Ian enjoyed a visit from the therapets while his grandchildren Faith and Louie Mackay were visiting. STV

As Maddie and Morgan continue to enjoy the cuddles, the conversation naturally drifts to Ian's own dog Patch, who has been with the family since he was a pup.

"They are man's best friend," he says, speaking about his love of dogs.

"It's the tail wagging and just jumping on you and wanting petted. It certainly lifts you, I just think it's fantastic."

The St Columba's Hospice therapet service first started in 2015 with a small group of dogs and a cat called George.

At the moment, the hospice welcomes therapets to visit in-patients and those using the day therapy services around three times a week but this is something they would be more than happy to increase to seven days having watched the effect their presence has on everyone at the hospice.

Twin dogs Maddie and Morgan love all the attention they are given when visiting the hospice.
Twin dogs Maddie and Morgan love all the attention they are given when visiting the hospice. STV

"It would be fantastic to have furry friends in every day of the week," Richard Mackay from St Columba's Hospice says.

"It is such a simple thing, the idea of a dog coming in, but the impact is phenomenal and we really value all the time and effort that these volunteers put in with their dogs.

"I have seen patients that have been really withdrawn and low in mood and when they see that dog coming in, it lifts the mood and they immediately start talking and feeling better at engaging with what's going on.

"That is really positive and I think that no amount of medicine could do that - really powerful what a dog can do."

St Columba's Hospice would welcome therapets every day of the week if they had more volunteers.
St Columba's Hospice would welcome therapets every day of the week if they had more volunteers. STV

Ruth and Jennifer decided they wanted to give their time to a volunteer project at a hospice after losing their mother to cancer.

Both of Ruth's dogs were over a year old, a criteria for the therapets, and they were both successfully assessed by charity CCST to make sure they were fit, healthy and under their owners control.

CCST works with volunteers to help initiate partnerships that enable therapet visits to places like nurseries, schools, care homes, hospitals, hospices and prisons.

The charity's work also covers the popular Paws Against Stress events which take place at universities and colleges to help relieve stress during exam time.

Jennifer and Ruth have been volunteering with dogs Maddie and Morgan for 18 months.
Jennifer and Ruth have been volunteering with dogs Maddie and Morgan for 18 months. STV

"It is amazing, it is joy, pure joy," Ruth says, explaining the reaction people have when they see Maddie and Morgan in the hospice.

"We are nothing to do with illness or their treatment or anything so the patients love the dogs, the families love to see them and the amazing staff who work in here, and Maddie and Morgan love all the stroking, petting and the compliments.

"These two sense that people are ill, they put a paw on a arm or a leg, it is amazing.

"They are a great diversion for everybody," Jennifer adds.

"The patients talk about the dogs they have had over the years.

"It takes them totally away from their treatment and it is fresh faces and something else to talk about."

Pharmacy technician Carrie Hogg was delighted to meet the therapets for the first time.
Pharmacy technician Carrie Hogg was delighted to meet the therapets for the first time. STV

Therapets can be any type of breed or cross breed of dogs or cat with CCST also hoping to attract more potential volunteers as they celebrate their 30th anniversary this year.

Both Ruth and Jennifer say they have been moved by the people they have met during their volunteering and say it has been an absolute pleasure to see the difference their devoted dogs make to everyone they meet during their visits, not just for the patients but also the staff and visitors too.

Two-year-old Autumn Arthur and her aunt Michelle Ross enjoyed a pet with Maddie and Morgan during a visit to the hospice.
Two-year-old Autumn Arthur and her aunt Michelle Ross enjoyed a pet with Maddie and Morgan during a visit to the hospice. STV
Iris Bell and her husband John enjoyed the calming cuddles from the dogs in the garden.
Iris Bell and her husband John enjoyed the calming cuddles from the dogs in the garden. STV

"It is great to be a part of it, a privilege," Ruth says.

"Often, we just can't get in the door - somebody stops us whether it is a member of staff or visitor or somebody in a wheelchair going outside for fresh air. So you just stop and chat before we even get to the desk.

"A couple of people we have met, it just stops you short, particularly patients who have got young children.

"It is really hard. We just know we are making a difference so it is really worth doing."

For more information, visit the CCST and the St Columba's Hospice therapet websites.

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.