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PAT Dogs - branching out

Saturday February 25th, was a big day for the Pets As Therapy who celebrated the opening of their Wirral Branch, hot on the heals of their first branch which is in the Isle of Man.

The Wirral Branch has almost totally been down to the hard work of Eileen Slattery, whose Pat Dog Chester was last year voted ‘Pat Dog Show Stopper of the Year’ at Crufts. She joined the charity two years has now organised the new Branch, which already has 15 qualified volunteers, thanks to her dedication.

Maureen Hennis, Chief Executive Director of the charity gave an opening talk at the well attended event and, with more than 20 dogs present, not a bark was heard.

As the organisation grows, so does the need for trained Assessors to assess the new doggie volunteers, therefore the day was combined with a Training Course, for volunteers from various parts of the country. Having so many more people trained will speed-up the process of qualifying prospective dogs, because of course, all of this is done on a voluntary basis, by people who mostly have a full-time job and fit this in, in their spare time.

Course facilitators were Jenny and Tony Orchard; and Julia Sharp from Oxford, helped by Alison Reynolds, an Animal Behaviourist who lectures at Myerscough College and is now working part-time for the charity as Research and Training Manager.

Pauline Flemming, the actress who plays, Penny, Mike Baldwin’s girlfriend in Coronation Street, was taking part in the celebrations, together with her daughter and their two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Pauline and one of the Spaniels are members of Pets As Therapy and are regulars at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, but the other failed his assessment miserably, when it was done by his vet. He cocked his leg on the vet’s trousers but just in case that wasn’t enough to get him the ‘failed’ he obviously wanted, he then decided that a bowel movement just missing the vet’s shoes would do the trick.

Many of these wonderful PAT dogs will be with their owners manning the P.A.T. stand at Crufts on all four days. You can find them in Hall 4 on Stand 76, so remember to pay them a visit.

I have been a fan of this organisation since 1990, when my mother had a severe stroke and wasn’t expected to recover. She loved all dogs but more than anything, the Irish Wolfhound. She had lost her memory and hardly recognised even family members, yet she told everyone when she had had a visit from an Irish Wolfhound!

As I walked towards her with him, I had to pass a man in a wheelchair whom I fed daily because he couldn’t move either of his arms. For the first time that man smiled and struggled to lift his hand to stroke the hound, who became a regular visitor to the rehabilitation ward from that day.

I know that this gentle giant played a large part in my mother’s recovery and in the improvement of this man and for this reason I am also hoping to qualify one of my Otterhounds as a PAT Dog some time soon.