What is your volunteer role?
I am part of Paws Pet Therapy, which involves me walking around Lifehouse with my pet Labrador Paddington (Paddy). I meet with patients and their families, offering comfort and support.
How many hours a month do you volunteer at Lifehouse?
Paddington and I visit every two weeks for two hours.
What made you decide to volunteer at Lifehouse?
I had seen Pet Therapy in action when I was a student at university. Years later when Paddy was a bit older, I put him through the Pet Therapy training programme. He’s always had a beautiful temperament and seems to have an understanding of the world around him and the people in it. He can change my day as soon as I see him, so I wanted to share the joy he brought me with the patients at Lifehouse.
What do you personally get back from your time?
It’s very rewarding seeing Paddy put a smile on everyone’s face as soon as I walk in the door. There’s been a lot of standout moments. One in particular, when we came across a patient in tears in the waiting room and as soon as she saw Paddy, she dropped to her knees and gave him a whole body hug. A group of us did nothing but watched, she stopped crying and told us how much Paddy made her day. Her level of despair was evident but it seemed to wash away in that moment.
What’s the best part about volunteering?
I’m very proud of my dog after every visit. It’s a great bonding experience.
What’s the hardest part about volunteering?
In no way is any part of the visit hard. It’s very relaxed from the moment I walk in the doors.
What’s been the most surprising thing about volunteering at Lifehouse?
I think I’ve become more aware of how much people internalise their anxieties. People tell me about a sense of relief they feel when they see Paddy, it’s a comfort only a dog can give.
Where does Paddington visit in Lifehouse?
For the most part it’s waiting rooms across all levels of Lifehouse. We visit the wards as well.
What are patients’ response to Paddington?
Lots of smiles and greetings. I often get stories about their own dogs at home, or their dogs when they were growing up. I think it’s a moment where the patient can set aside the clinical setting and reflect on other, happier times.
What are staff’s response to Paddington?
They adore him. I work as a Radiation Therapist at another clinic and I can vouch for the difference it makes in your day. We’re definitely here just as much for the staff as we are for patients.
How do you believe Paddington helps those undergoing cancer treatment?
A comfort and support that only a dog can provide. I think if I came up to a patient wanting a pat and licked their face, I’d get escorted of the premises!
How does Paddington feel at the end of his volunteering?
He’s fine. He has a massive drink of water and his tail still wags just as much as it did when we walked in.
Do you notice a change in Paddington’s attitude when he is with patients?
He’s definitely more aware and knows not to be as playful as he is in the backyard. He’ll do the typical ‘Labrador lean’ and come up to patients, lean into them wanting a pat.
When you’re not volunteering, what do you get up to?
I’m a Radiation Therapist at another clinic. My busy schedule is mixed with being with friends and learning the ukulele.