Pets caring for people

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 10/07/2012
Toni Smith
Jess Etheridge

CANINE COMPANY: Toni Smith has been recovering from a stroke in North Shore Hospital with help from Outreach Therapy Pet dog Cassie.

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Devoted dogs are bringing joy to the sick and injured at North Shore Hospital.

Patients in ward two are treated to regular visits from Outreach Therapy Pets, a volunteer programme run by St John and the SPCA.

The animals are brought in to help with patient rehabilitation, mobility and overall wellbeing.

Stroke victim Toni Smith, 71, met Outreach dog Cassie the golden retriever while recuperating in hospital.

"I think it's marvellous. She's a beautiful dog."

Ms Smith was rushed into intensive care after a stroke at a petrol station in Taharoto Rd on June 27.

"I was just about to go in and pay when I had to stop and hold onto the railings. I thought, `I'll be right in a minute', but I wasn't."

"Lucky I was nice and handy to the hospital. I couldn't move at all when I came in, I was completely out of it," she says.

Ms Smith spent a week in the acute stroke unit but is now back on her feet and enjoying Cassie's company.

"She really gives a calmness to you. She doesn't care if you've got two heads or one foot. Dogs don't judge, they just love you," Ms Smith says.

Outreach Therapy Pets volunteer Judy Cowie, Cassie's owner, visits North Shore Hospital up to once a week.

"When I got Cassie I realised her calm temperament and thought it would be good to volunteer."

"The patients love her, I get just as much out of it as they do," she says.

Cassie is bathed, brushed and given the once over with a dry conditioner before each visit.

"She shakes hands, rolls over and lies when you tell her. It helps to put smiles on their faces."

Outreach Therapy Pets runs in 40 North Shore establishments including rest homes and schools.

The programme involves miniature horses, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds. But dogs are the preferred visitors.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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