Therapy dog owner calls on others to sign up to scheme

PAT dog Flora with her owner, Morag
PAT dog Flora with her owner, Morag

The owner of Worthing Hospital’s first therapy dog has called on other pet owners to sign up to the scheme to help more patients.

Flora, a four-year-old bichon frise, shih tzu cross, and owner Morag Hardinge received an award at the Patient First STAR awards for their volunteering.

Morag signed Flora up to the Pets As Therapy (PAT) scheme – and her experience has prompted her to encourage others to join the scheme and help Worthing Hospital patients.

Flora spends the majority of her time visiting end-of-life patients at Worthing Hospital, giving them the opportunity to pet and cuddle it in order to feel happier or comforted.

Morag, an ex-Worthing nurse, said: “Patients often see Flora as an inspiration to do something or she helps to put them at ease and make them smile.”

Morag made the decision to get Flora registered as a therapy dog in 2016, when Flora was nine months old, and wants to encourage other dog owners to do the same.

The process includes passing a temperament assessment, vaccinations and going through the voluntary services department at the hospital. Morag said: “The whole process can take time to complete but it is completely worthwhile.

“I would definitely urge more people to register their dogs as PAT dogs.

“It is such an important charity and an amazing experience for the people we visit.”

Other parts of Flora’s time are spent at Springfield Infant School where she is petted and read to by year-one pupils.

Morag believes that the school side is also very important. She said: “It helps comfort anxious children and helps to keep them interested in their reading”

Having a therapy dog visit a patient can be beneficial to relatives of the patient. Morag said: “People are so happy when they see their loved ones with Flora – she makes them laugh.”

Flora’s service is completely free but donations to Pets as Therapy or Love Your Hospital are always appreciated.

The STAR awards are held by the Love Your Hospital charity to celebrate staff and volunteers of the NHS. Flora and Morag, alongside the three PAT dogs and their owners from St Richard’s, received the Volunteer of Year Award.

To find out more about registering a dog as a PAT dog visit petsastherapy.org/join-us/join-pat-dog