Animal officers appointed at Doncaster Royal Infirmary to give snuggles and comfort to patients

An unlikely duo of furry volunteers have begun making a fortnightly appearance on a Doncaster Hospital ward to cheer up patients.

Ted and Darcie, two trained Pets As Therapy animals, visit the Gresley Unit at Doncaster Royal Infirmary every other week to provide comfort and a bit of companionship to elderly inpatients who might be missing their own pets.

Ted, a three year old German Shepherd, specialises in receiving strokes and head pats on the Mallard Ward, which provides hospital care for patients with dementia, while Darcie, a two year old Ragdoll cat, is a regular on the Kingfisher and Kestrel wards which care for older patients.

Ted and Darcie have been presented with ID cards, making them official staff members of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, in their roles as ‘Senior Snuggle Officers.’

Gemma Betts, Activities Co-ordinator on the Mallard Ward, said: “We love having Ted and Darcie on the ward. The whole environment changes when they arrive. Our patients who have pets at home that are being looked after while they are in hospital appreciate the companionship they provide and it can spark memories for those who have had pets in the past or remember a family member’s beloved furry friend. All of these comforts and memories help our patients to feel at home and speeds up their recovery.”

Ted and Darcie are accompanied by their owners, Julie Caughey and Jane Curtis, during their visits. Jane, said: “Coming to the wards is a highlight of Darcie’s week. She sits on a few laps and gets fussed over and then it’s home for a snack and a nap. It’s lovely to see how much of a difference she makes. There’s one lady in particular whose face lights up when she sees Darcie arrive and it’s really heart-warming.”

Pets as Therapy offer help to patients with mental and physical health conditions and illnesses such as Autism, Dementia and Stroke by including animal assisted interventions as part of a holistic approach to treatment. They take part in hospital visits, care homes and schools across the UK.

Julie has been training Ted since he was a puppy. From three months old he began to learn general obedience which laid the ground work for his therapy pet assessment, which tested how Ted would react to common situations in a care setting and if he was well-behaved enough to be allowed on the wards. Both Ted and Darcie passed the assessment with flying colours making their ‘pawrents’ very proud.

Julie said, said: “Ted is such a lovely natured animal. He is a big dog but he’s very much a gentle giant. He will just flop down and lay and anyone’s feet and wait to be stroked. The patients love him. He’s somewhat of a celebrity on the wards and he encourages some of the patients to get out of their beds to come and see him when he’s in the day room which I’m told helps to speed up their recovery.”

The Mallard Ward also offer many other activities to their patients to encourage them to get up and dressed and take part in activities. This is part of the Trust’s commitment to fighting ‘Pyjama Paralysis’ to prevent deconditioning and muscle atrophy in hospital by encouraging patients to maintain some normality whilst in and to get up, get dressed and be active.

If you would like to know more about Pets as Therapy, or you would like to sign your own beloved pet up to help patients, head to petsastherapy.org.