Animal loving residents at a care home are getting to know some pawsome new friends.
The trio of three-year-old Skye Terriers, Maiya, Mags and Inca, are regular visitors to Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd, the dementia centre of excellence on the outskirts of Caernarfon.
Their owner, Megan Roberts, from nearby Rhostryfan, said the therapy dogs look forward to their visits as much as the residents enjoy seeing them.
“When I get out the tabards they wear for the visit they get really excited. It’s as if they know where they’re going.
“And when they get here it’s great to see the reaction of residents to the dogs. They like to show some affection toward the dogs and it seems the dogs are only too happy to reciprocate. It’s quite a special thing to see.
“Some seem to come alive when they visit and while some will only just pet and make a fuss of them others will talk about the dogs they have known or owned in the past. It has to be a good thing to stimulate those memories,” said Megan.
Bryn Seiont Newydd residents Derek Randall and his wife, Patricia, love meeting the dogs
The 85-year-old, who used to live in Llangefni, Anglesey, said: “I was a dog handler when I served in the Army in Cyprus in the late 1950s and love dogs.
“After I left the Army I was a clerk on the railway and then a bus driver and a chocolate cake salesman before joining the Royal Mail.
“I worked in the Bethesda area for 18 years and I didn’t like them much when I was a postman but I like these little dogs and it’s nice to stroke them and just to see them.”
Nia Davies Williams, Bryn Seiont’s musician in residence and enrichment co-ordinator, said the visits are extremely popular with residents and staff alike.
As Pat sat stroking Maiya on her lap, Nia said: “Megan kindly volunteered to bring their dogs in on a weekly basis and we are so grateful. You can see some residents’ faces light up as soon as they see the dogs. There is real joy and happiness.
“They always come and say hello to Derek and Pat in their room or in the lounge.”
Megan is a member of Therapy Dogs Nationwide, a national charity where visiting volunteers take their own dogs into various establishments to provide comfort, distraction, and stimulation and always focused on benefiting people in the community.
Megan said using animals especially dogs as therapy is not a new idea.
“They have been used for over 40 years in experience in the care sector and the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT) have been extensively studied and results range from improvement in general health and wellbeing, increased confidence levels, improved and controlled movement to improved communication skills,” she said.
Megan also takes the dogs to hospitals and hospices as well as schools and student accommodation for more than eight years.
She said: “Although Skye Terriers were bred for hunting they have a very easy going temperament and although their long hair comes over their eyes they do know what’s going on around them. In any event they are all assessed and passed by Therapy Dogs Nationwide.”
Megan said the Skye Terriers she brings to Bryn Seiont Newydd are members of one of the most endangered native dog breeds in the United Kingdom, with very few pups are born each year.
The long, low, hardy terrier was originally bred in the Hebrides to hunt badgers, otters and foxes. Renowned for its loyalty a Skye Terrier was said to have been present under the petticoat of Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution. In 1840, Queen Victoria made the breed fancy, keeping several of the breed.
One of the best known Skye Terriers is Greyfriars Bobby who spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner in Edinburgh until he died in January 1872. A prominent commemorative statue stands in Edinburgh’s Old Town and is a popular tourist attraction and his nose has rubbed bright and shiny by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.