All animal lovers know that pets make us feel happier. Whether it’s cuddling a cat or petting a pooch, time with your favourite furry-friend is good for you. It has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure and generally leave you feeling more relaxed.
That’s why we’ve recruited Twm, an adorable eight-year-old Kelpie Collie.
With his special British Red Cross uniform, therapy dog Twm is now an important member of our independent living team in Carmarthenshire. He is providing a boost for people across the community.
Our support workers in Wales often visit older people who may not have seen or spoken to another soul all day – or even all week.
Many of the people we help have suffered a personal crisis such as bereavement, an illness or a stay in hospital. Most need some encouragement to get their life back on track.
A new project – Camau Cadarn (Welsh for Positive Steps) – aims to do just that. Working alongside volunteers from Royal Voluntary Service, our team will help give people the confidence to reclaim their independence.
A therapeutic process
As well as support from our two-legged volunteers, users of the service in Carmarthenshire have the option of receiving a visit from a therapy dog like Twm.
Sarah Disney works on the Camau Cadarn project and also happens to be Twm’s proud owner.
Sarah explains: “There have been numerous scientific studies showing the positive effects that petting a dog has on a person.
“Having a dog present really helps people relax and is a great conversation starter. Sometimes it’s easier for them to talk to Twm rather than directly to me – dogs don’t judge you or have opinions.
“Petting Twm can bring out all sorts of emotions but it’s a very therapeutic process and we’ve seen some great results.”
Company and a cuddle
One person to be cheered up by Twm is 81-year-old Adrienne Davies.
Left devastated after the death of both her husband and son, the great-grandmother of two found she was leaving the house less and less.
Her loneliness only increased when her beloved pets, Maggie the dog and Jess the cat, also died.
But regular visits from Twm are helping Adrienne cope with her grief.
“I really look forward to the visits from Twm,” said Adrienne. “He is such a sweet and affectionate creature – he really lifts my spirits.
“The visits are so beneficial and remind me of how loyal and affectionate dogs can be. Having the company of animals really cheers me up and it’s nice to have a cup of coffee and chat with Sarah as well.”
Adrienne is certainly happy with the service she received from the British Red Cross.
“Since my visits from Twm I have decided to get myself another little pet to keep me company.
“The last few years have been very difficult but having a cuddle with Twm and being able to give him a treat or two really brightens my day.”
Twm helps dementia patients
Twm has proved to be a great support for people with dementia, too.
Owner Sarah recalled a recent emotional visit to a care home.
“There was a woman sitting quietly, staring into space,” said Sarah.
“Twm approached and she looked down at him, lifted her hand and placed it on top of his head. She said: ‘We had a sheep dog.’
“I asked her if she had lived on a farm. Her eyes were fixed on Twm but she answered my questions and what came out was this enchanting story of her childhood living on a dairy farm.
“She said her mother wouldn’t allow her to milk as she dried the cows up! Her brothers did the milking, and took a cart around the local streets. She said people would come out of their houses with a half-pint-can or full-pint-can and her job was to fill them up and take the money.
“She didn’t take her eyes off Twm, who had triggered this memory in her.
“I turned around to see four members of the care home staff listening intently to her story. They had no idea about this woman’s background – she rarely spoke.
“A couple of the staff were filling up with tears. I also had a tear in my eye.
“It was a beautiful moment. Never underestimate the power of a dog.”
- The Red Cross has relied on dogs since the First World War – discover the story of the first aiders on four legs
- Find out about the range of independent living services we offer across the UK
- Need further proof that dogs are our best friends?
- This blog was written by Sam Whitwham, our media officer in Wales
Update September 2017: Twm has now retired from the British Red Cross.