In our blog ‘The Power of Pets for the Elderly’, we discussed the many benefits of pet ownership for elderly service users. From companionship, to emotional support, to health benefits and much more.
In the last year alone (2022) we cared for 33,000 pets on our visits to service users. However, sometimes owning a pet just isn’t a possibility, and for those staying in our extra care scheme homes, this is often the case.
Thankfully there are incredible pet therapy schemes available to support wellbeing and amazing dogs like Balthazar, who belongs to Cera Care Coordinator, Nicola George. We spoke to her about how he came into her life and began his very special volunteer role supporting our service users.
How did you come to own Balthazar? “I think Balthazar owns us rather than the other way around!
After months of debate, we got him in March 2020. He's a toy schnoodle (meaning his parents are a mini schnauzer and a toy poodle). My fiancé wanted a schnauzer, I wanted a poodle mix (no moulting) so he was perfect!
My fiancé James has suffered for many years with severe anxiety and bouts of locking himself away from the world, so his doctor did not think twice about recommending him for a therapy dog. With their support, registration was very straightforward. We took him to a basic dog training course before signing him up for anything else, and found he was a natural.
He loves people and is very calm when out and about, making him the perfect temperament for a therapy dog.”
How did Balthazar come to visit our service users? “I don't drive and sadly due to staffing issues spent weekends staying at one of our extra care schemes, Needham House. James first brought Balthazar in to help his confidence with new surroundings, but after that first week, he became the star of the show.
I would arrive on a Friday, only to be asked, when am I getting picked up and could James bring Balthazar with him. A polite queue would form, with James & Balthazar arriving two hours before my shift changed over to get all his cuddles in.
Treats would appear from nowhere and by the end of summer he had a real routine. He would start by meeting anyone waiting for him in the entrance hall, and then run out into the garden to see three more residents that he had met in previous weeks.
I am no longer there at weekends, so take him in whenever we can, which is why he was at the Christmas Fayre.”
What sort of impact do you think his visits have on our service users? “It's strange the effect he has had on them, but it has been incredibly heartwarming to witness too. We have found out all about childhood pets, and had tears and laughter. But mostly the residents all just love a cuddle and he is more than happy to let them.
One lady in particular has difficulty with her arms and tends to flap around. He just sits there looking at her, while she occasionally taps him on the head and tells him all about her dogs she used to have.
In recent weeks, one of his "friends" has become very unwell, and withdrawn. I checked with his wife that we could visit and she agreed, though didn't know if he would see us, once we were there.
He sat there with Balthazar, all cuddled up and told him all about his illness and how he felt about it. It was incredibly moving and his wife and I shed a little tear together. He just brings so much joy and comfort to so many people and I am just glad I am in a position to allow him to help others. His wife could not thank us enough for visiting and I think that sums up how many people feel around him.
He just makes us and everyone he meets smile.”
Discover more about the ‘The Power of Pets for the Elderly’ by visiting our blog.
Alternatively, if you or someone you know, is interested in working as a carer with our wonderful service users, click here.