Mabel the Dog, who you may recognise from our blog series on her adventures around the hospice, recently qualified as a fully fledged Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog!

This means she is now an official member of our amazing team of volunteers (there’s more than 600) and will be offering cuddles and companionship to patients staying on the Inpatient Unit - she even has her own name badge! 

Carolyn, Mabel’s owner, shared more: 

‘I had been volunteering at the hospice for four years and thought it would be lovely to have a PAT dog. I had been researching breeds and came across the Australian Labradoodle.

‘I got Mabel at nine weeks. It was immediately apparent that she was quite a special puppy and I had high hopes for her. As I volunteer at the hospice I brought her in to The Street every week so she could get used to the unique atmosphere.

‘She very quickly began to see it as her weekly treat and seemed to have an instinct as to what would be required of her. She was unfazed by wheelchairs, walking frames and trolleys going past. She was also very happy to be stroked and showed no signs of wanting to nip anyone which was very encouraging.

‘I took her to obedience classes as the qualification for a PAT dog is to be generally well-behaved, walk nicely on the lead and enjoy being petted. The earliest a PAT dog can be assessed is nine months old, so I applied as soon as she was old enough. Sure enough, she passed at the first attempt!

‘I tell her we are “going to work” and I put her special lead on and bandana. She gets very excited and knows where she is going. We go to the Inpatient Unit where we visit anyone who wants to see her, and I hadn’t quite realised just how beneficial the visits could be. 

'Taking Mabel into a patient’s room means that the patient is seeing someone who has absolutely no agenda other than being stroked. The conversation generally follows the same pattern: I introduce myself and Mabel and then the patient will ask her age, breed, how she was trained, does she moult etc, and then they will talk about their own dogs.

‘I saw an elderly gentleman who wasn’t talking very much but he remembered his dog from when he was a child and told me all about him.

Another man I visited spoke no English and was therefore very isolated. He began to stroke Mabel and a lovely smile came over his face. For a few minutes it didn’t matter that we couldn’t communicate in words.

‘Sometimes Mabel gives more comfort to a visiting relative than the patient as they can stroke and play with her which seems to relieve some tension.

‘She also seems to be a bit of a stress reliever for staff!

‘Mabel is an honorary member of the Monday sewing group. She’s not allowed to sew - something about not having fingers - but she goes into the group and stimulates laughter and discussion. She has been photographed many times!

‘I have to reduce Mabel’s dinner on a Monday now as people are bringing biscuits in for her now they know is she is in every week! 

‘It’s definitely all about Mabel. She is the visitor, with me just being the human she has to have with her.’

There's a range of voluntary opportunities at St Wilfrid's, and whether you're helping at the hospice, in one of our shops, or out in the community, you'll be making a real difference for people with a life-limiting illness. Click here for all current vacancies.