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Barley the therapy dog delights patients and staff at Furness General Hospital

27 January 2020

Barley the PAT dog

Patients and staff at Furness General Hospital were delighted when a special visitor popped in to see them.

Barley the therapy dog paid his first visit to the hospital recently and is now a weekly visitor.

Patients’ faces lit up as Barley, a friendly and gentle two-year-old golden retriever, wagged his tail and enjoyed being patted. He was a welcome diversion for everyone and some members of staff said they nearly cried tears of joy because patients loved Barley so much.

Jill Pakenham, who is originally from Oxfordshire and now lives in Broughton-in-Furness, said she intuitively knew that Barley would make a good therapy dog due to his calm nature.

Jill explained that she is a ‘Pets As Therapy’ (PAT) volunteer and Barley is a PAT dog. The PAT charity was founded in 1983 to enhance health and wellbeing in the community through the visits of trusted volunteers and their pets.

Visiting the hospital in Barrow is a new venture for Jill and Barley. Before Jill had Barley, she had a PAT dog called Toby who used to visit St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston.

The PAT charity exists to improve the lives of people suffering from debilitating mental and physical health conditions and illnesses such as autism, dementia and stroke.

Jill hopes Barley’s regular visits to Furness General Hospital will benefit patients recovering from many different illnesses and form an important part of their holistic care.

On a visit to Ward 4, which is general surgical ward, Barley showed how his presence had a calming and uplifting effect on patients and staff.

Louise Worsley from Barrow, a patient on Ward 4, said: “I think it’s lovely. Barley has cheered everyone up.

“I would love to have a dog but I have too many health problems so it’s nice to meet Barley. I think he should come back to see me!”

Yvonne Linton, a Care Support Worker (CSW) on Ward 4, said: “I’m just tearing up at the moment. I didn’t realise just how much Barley’s visit would cheer everyone up!

“I’ve never seen anything like this. The only time when patients and staff have been this happy was when one of the nurses brought her baby in. It’s lovely – it lifts patients’ spirits. You can just see the change in them. You can feel the happiness.”

Sarah Maguire, a CSW on Ward 4, said: “This has made my day! It’s amazing for our patients. I’m glad Barley is coming back. It’s something for our patients to look forward to.”

Ashleigh Lawson, a Registered Nurse on Ward 4, said: “It’s not only the patients who benefit from Barley’s visits – the staff love it too.

“We have patients who need to be here for over a month so getting to meet Barley is good for their mental health. It lifts their mood. I saw a patient, who was very ill, smiling. That was lovely.”

Barely proceeded to visit countless patients on the ward and brought joy wherever he went.

Jill explained: “Barley started as a PAT dog when he was 18 months old. I had another dog called Toby but he passed away about three years ago. We have another golden retriever called Chip who is eight years old but he’s not really happy with people so he isn’t a PAT dog.

“When we got Barley I just knew he could do the job. He has a laid-back and gentle nature.

“He’s very reliable and is ok with other dogs. He’s getting used to being in the hospital now. He can’t wait to get in there and see people.

“He was assessed by a local vet to be a PAT dog. Barley is brilliant – he really helps the people we visit. The act of stroking a dog is incredibly therapeutic. It’s nice for people to have that unconditional affection from Barley.”

Jill said she first thought about being a PAT dog volunteer when TV presenter, Ben Fogle, featured the charity on one of his programmes.

Jill said: “Barley has that innate sense that he is going to be loved by patients and staff.

“One of the ladies we visited at the hospital had suffered very serious fractures and was horizontal. She was not interacting with anybody. When she was asked if she would like to see Barley she was instantly animated. It was lovely to see. Barley’s visits can help immensely with patients’ recovery. It helps them to forget their worries for a while.

“We also visit The Living Well Centre on Duke Street in Barrow and various support groups on a regular basis.”

Marina Woodburn, a Clinical Leader for the Care of the Elderly Team at FGH run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), said: “It is nice to be able to facilitate Barley’s visits.

“Everyone was told that Barley would be visiting the ward and we cleared it with our infection control team. Before he went into any of the ward bays, we checked that everyone was ok with it. It is very rewarding to see that our patients are benefiting from Barley’s visits.

“People who have dogs or other pets at home often miss them a lot so it’s nice for them to meet Barley. They love to see a dog in the ward environment where they wouldn’t normally see pets.”

For more information on the PAT charity go to: https://petsastherapy.org/