We spoke to Pets as Therapy volunteers, Tash and Crumble, to see why they decided to volunteer at Trinity.

“My mum was admitted to a nursing home in Battersea in August 2015 and she was given 6 months to a year to live. We couldn’t get her into Trinity, but someone recommended Kate from the PAFS team to me, so I got in touch and she offered pre-bereavement counselling to me, my brother and sister. Kate went to go and see mum as much as possible and work out what her needs were. It was all such a blur when mum died and we tried very hard to get her to Trinity, but by the time we got Kate involved, she was too sick to move.

“When mum was admitted, I would go and see her in the morning with my dog, Crumble. As time went on, she got a tumour in her brain and lost her ability to work out who I was, what I was doing there and what I wanted, but she always recognised Crumble. She would talk to Crumble asking how her day was and how her job was going. The more she did this the more I realised she was actually talking to me.

"Mum loved having Crumble there, as she’d had dogs all her life. Crumble was a very calming influence on her during a very difficult time and I quickly realised that if Crumble could help my mother, then she may be able to help others. Kate had looked after us so well, so I really wanted to give something back to Trinity. Someone put the idea into my head about joining Pets as Therapy and here we are today.

Crumble just loves it at Trinity. Obviously we’re not going there at the moment, I can tell that she’s missing it. She’ll go and sit by her yellow coat and look at me as if I’m being mean for not taking her. She loves seeing people and being loved by people. Everyone at Trinity loves her too. The staff's faces light up when they see her. People rush over, take a photo and say hello and that is amazing to me. Word travels fast as well. When I meet a new doctor or nurse on the ward I often get, ‘Oh my God, is this the famous Crumble?’. I know sometimes if can be hard or emotional for staff, and it’s just lovely to see that Crumble can bring such a big smile to someone’s face who might be having a tough day at work.

“I particularly enjoy talking to the families that visit. I’ve been there and I know what it’s like to lose a member of your family in such a awful way. As for the patients, if they’re very close to the end, Crumble will go in and sit with them just as something different to look at. Sometimes, in these situations, we go in to just to break the tension in the room. People are just so pleased to see something else rather than their dying parent, or friend, or whoever they are. They don’t have to think about death, doctor’s appointments and funeral arrangements, it’s a chance for them to talk about something different. To them Crumble represents something to people that they haven’t see that day. Having a happy dog who’s just a bundle of fun makes such a difference in those moments.

“I get an enormous amount of people talking to me about their dogs, amazingly from people with dementia as well. Because Crumble is so bouncy, we will be told to be gentle with a patient if they have dementia, especially if they can’t remember what happened yesterday. Crumble and I will go in and then suddenly they’ll regale me with stories about the dog they had as a child in the war, what their dog was like in the 60’s and all sorts. Occasionally people will be able to recall 10 years of their life they have spent with a dog, all because Crumble is in the room.  

“With everything we’ve been through together, my mum dying and spending time together at Trinity, Crumble and I definitely have a special bond. I’m not married and I don’t have children, so when mum was dying, Crumble was there for me every day with a waggy tail and unquestioning love. She’s so intuitive and would come and sit on my lap whenever I was upset about mum. Now we’re coming to Trinity, I feel like our relationship has blossomed into something wonderful.

I do find it quite hard visiting the hospice. It brings back memories of losing my mum. I’m just pleased that for a few moments we’re there, Crumble and I can provide some relief,  give someone a brief break from it all, and get them to talk about something completely different and have a cuddle with a fluffy dog. If we can bring a smile to someone’s face when they’re having a rough day, then we’ve done a good job.

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