Posted on Tuesday 5 February 2013
Nala and an Evelina patient
Therapy dogs at the Evelina Children’s Hospital are welcoming attention of a different kind – with one starring in a television documentary, and another nominated for a national award.
Evidence shows that stroking a dog helps to reduce blood pressure, and there are 4,500 therapy dogs working in hospitals, hospices, and care homes over the country. Patients in the Evelina Children’s Hospital look forward to the days when they get visits from one of two friendly therapy dogs – Magee and Nala.
Magee, a Cockapoo (a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle), has found fame after being featured in the ITV show The Secret Life of Dogs on 31 January. The crew followed Magee on one of his visits to the Evelina to show how he brightens up the patients’ days. He’s also having a book published about his daily adventures.
Nala, a Golden Retriever, is through to the finals for the Cruft’s Therapy Dog of the Year Award – competing against other therapy dogs from all over the country.
Nala’s nomination said: “From her very first visit, Nala – with her owner Sandy – was an instant success with children, parents and professionals; and her popularity and evidence of her therapeutic benefits have grown over the years.
“Her gentle and calm disposition make her an ideal hospital visitor, enabling even the most anxious children to feel safe enough to stroke her or want to talk or walk with her.
“The allergy team at the Evelina have also called upon Nala to test out their treatment progammes when children have had severe allergies. She is pretty indispensable to the Evelina!”
Therapy dogs undergo rigorous checks for the job, including temperament testing and making sure they’re clean and healthy.
Consultant clinical psychologist at the Evelina, Melinda Edwards, said: “The children get so much enjoyment out of the dogs’ visits – it gives them something to look forward to, particularly for the patients who have been in hospital for a long time. It’s very therapeutic stroking a dog, and Nala and Magee always get a warm welcome from both the patients and their parents.”