Flora, my two year old Border Terrier was registered with OSF about three months ago when I spotted a Facebook request from OSF asking if any volunteers had any experience with Mental Health. I was an Occupational Therapist Assistant many years ago and when I was told that this was an opportunity for me to go into Wedgwood House at Bury St Edmunds hospital with Flora I was so pleased that I had waited for the perfect volunteering ‘job’ to attend with Flora.
Flora has been subjected to quite rough play with my four grandchildren and has never growled or bitten anyone. We have attended Puppy School and socialised with other dogs large and small and my only problem is that my husband lets her jump up to say hello to people, for which I am constantly telling him off!!! John – not Flora. Although the jumping up could be a problem if visiting the elderly, Flora passed her behaviour test with flying colours, taking a titbit gently and performing sitting, ‘down’ and recall.
So our first visit happened quite quickly. We were accompanied by Karen and her dog to make sure we were both suitable and the Occupational Therapists (OTs) welcomed us. Flora absolutely loves visiting. Her effect on troubled patients is absolutely wonderful. Sadly I cannot take photos of the patients’ reactions but at times it makes me quite emotional. Flora seems to know if someone is upset and even if a patient is at the computer she walks up to them and their hand comes down to stroke her. Our visits are getting longer! We stayed for the community meeting last week as one of the female patients, Susan (not her real name), was very upset. Susan stroked Flora whilst she was sat on her lap during the meeting and this enabled Susan to stay until the end of the meeting. Susan has a Border Terrier of her own at home. Sometimes seeing a dog upsets the patients as they miss the dogs they have at home.
Flora has a positive effect on the staff as well as the patients. The OTs look after us really well and value our visits. I have now been police checked and am a registered volunteer with the Norfolk and Suffolk Trust so that hopefully I can follow up any patients who are discharged if I think a visit from Flora would benefit them. I am currently making enquiries about visiting one particular lady who loves Flora now she has been discharged to a rehabilitation hostel.
Will o’ The Wisp (Willow) has now been assessed as suitable to be working for OSF and although she is only one year old, and I have only taken her in once, she was also a great success. At one point she was lying across three patients’ laps being stroked!
To conclude, here are just a couple of lovely things written about Flora:
Flora is a wonderful asset to us all. She is a loveable little Border Terrier who takes everything in her stride.
To my perfect little friend Flora MacDonald. You’re the cutest dog ever! I don’t know what kind of dog you are but you’re special.
Thank you OSF for giving Flora and Willow the opportunity to share their wonderful personalities and support the patients and staff at Wedgwood.