While some dogs may get a kick out of chasing a stick, Newfoundland Dougal gets his by helping the sick.
Dougal is the latest addition to the healthcare team at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital.
He comes courtesy of Pets As Therapy (PAT), a national charity that provides therapeutic visits to hospitals and a variety of other establishments by volunteers with their pet dogs and cats.
After six months’ training, rescue dog Dougal made his first appearance at the hospital on Monday.
He is expected to make regular visits to the Sibsey Road site, where he will spend time with patients in elderly care and also the stroke unit.
Maxine Skinner, matron for medicine at the hospital, said Dougal proved a hit on Monday – letting patients stroke him, feed him treats, or give him a cuddle.
“The patients absolutely adored him,” she said.
This is the second PAT dog to come to the hospital, Mrs Skinner said, following a St Bernard named Ellie who, sadly, died last year.
PAT dogs can bring about numerous benefits for patients, she said, from merely lifting their spirits to triggering memories among those with dementia or helping people who have had a stroke with their physical recovery.
Of Dougal’s visits, Mrs Skinner said: “We do a circuit of the ward. We will highlight some of the extremely vulnerable we feel would benefit from that interaction and spend a bit more time there.”
His stature means he can even be of comfort to bed-bound patients.
“He is level with the top of the beds so the patients who can’t get out can just reach out and touch him,” Mrs Skinner said.
And it is not just the patients (and the staff) who enjoy the visit, Mrs Skinner said that on Monday, Dougal’s tail was wagging excitedly.
“He’s happy as anything,” she said.