A four-year-old Cockapoo from Bedfordshire has been named ‘top dog’ in a national competition run by healthcare charity Sue Ryder in partnership with Pets as Therapy.
Mabel, who is owned by 62-year-old Debra Ellison who lives near Biggleswade, was selected as a winner in Sue Ryder’s Ambassadog search.
She will now become the official Ambassadog for Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in Moggerhanger.
She will be one of 10 Ambassasdogs who will carry out important duties at each of Sue Ryder’s neurological care centres, hospices, and palliative care hubs across the UK.
Each Ambassadog will work with Sue Ryder to spread love and support to those who need it most.
For people living with a terminal diagnosis, complex neurological condition or acquired brain injury, Sue Ryder believes that the unconditional love of a dog can provide companionship, relieve stress and bring joy.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Debra and Mabel had been regularly visiting patients and staff at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice for one year. Debra said:
“Mabel loves interacting with people. She loves to be fussed and stroked and she loves to greet absolutely everyone! We spend time with patients on the inpatient unit, in the day hospice, with patients’ families and with the carers group.
“We’re also here for the hospice staff and volunteers to brighten their day and help boost their wellbeing.
“Our visits are led by what people want on the day and we are respectful of their need. We’re completely focused on their lead. If they are happy we just sit and chat about anything while stroking Mabel or if they want her to lie on the bed with them, that is fine too.
“We both love our visits. If we can help change the focus for people even for five minutes then that is what it is all about. There is research which says stroking a dog helps to reduce blood pressure and anxiety – it really helps.
“We’re really looking forward to getting back into the hospice again. We’ve missed being there. It is such a special place. It’s great that by becoming Ambassadog we can help demonstrate the power dogs have in helping people.”
All the Ambassadog winners were selected by a panel of dog-loving celebrity judges, including presenter Kaye Adams, actress Carley Stenson, TV presenter Richard Arnold and author Emily Dean, as well as expert judge, Matthew Robinson from Pets As Therapy and Heidi Travis, chief executive of Sue Ryder. Heidi said:
“Congratulations to the winners of our Ambassadog search! Pet therapy is a fantastic way to reduce stress and bring happiness to the people that use our end of life and neurological care services.
“We are all extremely excited to be able to welcome back our new Ambassadogs once the government announces that it is safe to do so.”
Each Ambassadog has been assessed to make sure they fit the Pets As Therapy temperament assessment and are sociable, friendly, calm and gentle enough to work with Sue Ryder’s patients.
Each owner of the Ambassadogs is DBS checked and undertakes volunteer training before visiting a Sue Ryder service.
To find out more about volunteering with Sue Ryder, please visit www.sueryder.org/volunteer.