After dedicating several years helping older people through The Mayhew Animal Home’s TheraPaws initiative, loving and lively 13-year-old Staffie cross Finn has recently retired from the visiting pet therapy programme.
Finn and his proud owner Caroline Ryan visited elderly people at Lawnfield House Care Home in Willesden and were joined by volunteer Annie Walker as TheraPaws volunteers at St Mungo’s, a homelessness charity, for nearly four years.
The Mayhew’s TheraPaws programme recognises the mutual benefits of animals engaging with older people, particularly with dementia, improving relationships between humans and dogs. As well as enhancing people’s lives by helping to reduce social isolation, stress and unlocking memories and emotions, the initiative also helps animals by raising awareness of the positive effects dogs can have, including promoting respect and compassion towards animals.
Finn’s owner, Caroline Ryan, applied to join the animal therapy programme because she wanted to enjoy Finn, who she rescued as a puppy, in the company of people who could benefit from his loving nature. Having read up about the benefits of animal therapy, she could see just how valuable TheraPaws is in terms of brightening people’s lives and giving them some respite from their cares and worries.
Caroline said, “I really believe The Mayhew’s TheraPaws Project is just amazing as it enriches so many lives – the visited and the visitors alike! Contact with animals can bring so much simple, yet profound pleasure.”
TheraPaws volunteer Annie joined Caroline and Finn on their visits and loved the interactions Finn had with the residents. Annie had lost her Labrador at age 14 and was heartbroken so a friend in New York who knew about The Mayhew suggested she look at volunteering. The timing couldn’t have been more right as the TheraPaws programme had just begun!
Finn himself rose to the challenge and being a rescue Staffie cross, he thrived on being the centre of attention and getting out and about.
On Finn’s first care home visit he was excitable and bouncy, though it only took a few more visits for Caroline to master pacing him around vulnerable people. She soon learned that in order to make their visits more interactive with the residents, it made sense to bring some treats. Finn’s apple and carrot treats soon became a talking point and a wonderful way of making contact with people in otherwise quite tricky circumstances. One resident even decided he himself would have a crunch on one of Finn’s carrot treats! The whole room erupted in laughter, while Finn himself waited patiently to see if he would get a treat too.
Throughout his time at TheraPaws, Finn’s loving nature shined through as he would comfort distressed residents to help replace tears with cries of delight and giggles of joy.
TheraPaws volunteer, Annie Walker, added: “It’s been a marvellous four years. I have met some wonderful people and made some good friends. I hope to still be involved in some way, but Finn who has been the perfect TheraPaws dog is having a well-earned retirement.”