Percy, our 4-year-old cavalier, just loves attention and cuddles. He would be quite happy sitting on the sofa all day being cuddled and told how lovely he is. When out on walks I found we nearly always got stopped and asked for Percy cuddles. – Particularly from older people. I admit, I quite enjoy the warm feeling I get from seeing the joy and huge smiles he brings to people’s faces. I guess seeing the joy he brings made me want to share him with people more in need and I started looking into volunteering with Percy. Thankfully, fate had a hand, and I bumped into Belinda Johnston out on a walk at Cavenham, who suggested we come and volunteer with Our Special Friends.
Percy and I started visiting Gloria at the beginning of August, for an hour on Monday mornings. Upon our arrival, Gloria is sat in her chair, looking a little agitated and staring blankly at the tv. – I have come to learn that the tv is very often switched off and the house is very quiet. Gloria is always pleasantly surprised by our visits but each time I have to tell Gloria that we’ve come to see if she’s ok and to see if she would like a cuddle with Percy. Gloria’s face brightens immediately, insisting we sit down, before rushing off to the kitchen to fill Percy’s bowl with water. Percy always indulges Gloria by having a drink which always makes her smile and chuckle, telling me that she knew he was thirsty. – I guess Gloria’s nursing instincts of helping others instead of being helped herself is still strong even at the age of 86!
It’s taken Percy a few visits, (trying each of Gloria’s chairs for comfort, as well as laps,) to finally decide that sitting on the sofa between Gloria and myself is the best place. However, his favourite position is stretched out on his back, paws in the air enjoying a tummy rub from Gloria. This is always when Gloria will tell me about her little dog and the mischief he used to get up to. As well as the amazing stories about her time as a nurse and that her favourite places to work in were Australia and Tazmania.
At the start, I was a little apprehensive about visiting someone with Dementia, worrying about how to make conversation, would they be gentle with Percy or if Percy would even enjoy the experience. The more that we visit, the more I’ve come to understand that conversation will sometimes flow quite naturally. On the occasions that it doesn’t it just needs a simple comment about the birds in the garden, asking about one of her photos or commenting on one of the beautifully embroidered cushions Gloria has made. Sometimes nothing really needs to be said at all, it’s just nice to sit quietly together enjoying cuddles with Percy. The length of our visit varies from week to week, as they are very much led by Percy and Gloria. However, I quite often find that the hour goes by very quickly and before I know it, it’s time for us to leave. It has been an enjoyable experience and its satisfying to know that we are making a positive impact on Gloria’s day and mental wellbeing. It’s lovely to see Gloria brighten up when we visit.
Just lately I’ve been parking a few streets away from Gloria’s house and walking Percy to her garden gate. This is partly to give Percy time to wear off some energy after being sat in a car, as well as a chance to for a comfort break. I’ve noticed that Percy quite happily trots beside me, until we turn the corner and start walking towards Gloria’s house. Then he’ll start pulling on the lead and seems keen to hurry me along to Gloria’s back door. – I guess it’s safe to say that Percy enjoys the visits too!