In the quaint and ancient city of Chester in Cheshire, England lived a little girl named Sadey Guy. Her parents ran an institution there caring for over one hundred patients of all ages whose one shared characteristic was poverty. “We had our own laundry,” says Sadey, “and a vegetable garden where patients could work.” Sadey grew up among the patients, and it was there she came to realize the beneficial health effect of animals. “I had a doggie pram,” she says. “I put my dogs and rabbits in it and we visited the patients. Their spirits were lifted just to see them.”
Like her mother, Sadey trained to be a nurse. She worked in Liverpool shortly after World War Two before coming to Canada to live in 1954. Working at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, Sadey saw again what a positive effect visiting pet dogs had on patients. “I had heard about pet therapy programs in the United States,” she says. In 1976, Therapy Dogs International was founded by Elaine Smith, a registered nurse originally from England. Like Sadey, Elaine had noticed how the presence of a beloved animal helped lower patients’ blood pressure, calm them generally, and brighten their spirits.
Thus was born the concept that led to the founding of Pacific Animal Therapy Society (PATS), the Sidney-based animal therapy organization that was the first to bring animals to Victoria Hospice for the benefit of patients and their loved ones (and staff!). (Any therapy animals who come to Victoria Hospice must have PATS training and certification.) Not only did Sadey bring her border terrier Dylan and other dogs, but also a llama named Inka (guardian Alec Provan), a pony and other animals. Sadey knew early on that Dylan was tuned in to patients’ needs, recalling how even people who would not speak to nurses or staff would always talk to Dylan. “They began to open up, because of him,” she says. Working as a therapy dog from the age of six months till shortly before his death at 14, Dylan became a particular favourite at Hospice. Sadey remembers, “One fellow said, “‘Sadey, why don’t you go to the movies and leave Dylan here with me!’”
Sadey says as happy as patients are to have a visit from an animal, she herself derives much joy out of their interaction. “It’s so wonderful,” she says, “to see what kind of happiness an animal visitor can bring to a patient.”
For more about Pacific Animal Therapy Society, about Sadey, and about the animals (including Inka the llama) who have brought love and peace to so many Hospice patients, please check out PATS’s web site: http://patspets.ca/wordpress/
To meet a couple of four-legged volunteers who give many hours of their time to patients at Victoria Hospice, check out this link:
And to see the world from a therapy dog's perspective, please take a look at Shaw TV's feature on Ming, one of our smallest volunteers: