Do you remember the last time you were sick, or depressed? Your cat came and curled up on your lap and let you stroke her. You felt better, didn’t you? Sadey Guy knows the benefits of the unconditional love of a dog or cat, and witnesses them constantly as founder of the Pacific Animal Therapy Society – PATS, for short. In 1988, after Sadey had retired from nursing she founded the Society to bring the benefits of the unconditional love of a dog or a cat (or other pet) to people who don’t have a pet of their own.
PATS volunteers take their own pets, once a week, to hospitals, care homes, hospices and other such facilities from Victoria to Qualicum. Sadey says the therapy starts the instant the animal comes in the door.
“It helps (older people) with reminiscing,” she says. “When we go into seniors home, the patients will just be sitting there, eyes half-closed, not really doing or thinking about anything. But as soon as Dylan (her Welsh terrier) comes in, they say, “Oh, there’s a dog… I used to have a dog…” and they start talking about their pets and their children and their youth. If I had walked in alone, I’d be just another human.”
In hospice, Sadey says, the pets have a calming effect, and staff tells her afterwards that the residents get a good night’s sleep after a visit from a PATS pet. PATS pets also visit children’s wards and even pre-schools, teaching the wee ones about pet care.
There’s plenty of room in PATS for more volunteers with pets. The experience of sharing your pet with another person is a rewarding one in itself. Bonds develop. Care-home residents find they have something to look forward to every week.
One man, a former dog breeder named Fred, was paired with a Corgi called Strawberry. “One day,” Sadey says, “Fred said to us, “I dreamed I went to heaven and God was mad at me because I didn’t want to leave Strawberry behind.” When Strawberry died, Fred was very understanding, but we found him another dog. “One day, Fred wasn’t feeling too good, and Erin (the new dog) spent the time curled up on the bed with him. When Marlene (Erin’s owner) went to take her, Erin growled – and she never growled at Marlene! “That night, Fred died”, and more likely, Strawberry was waiting for him.
Source: Radio CFAX1070 Interview with Sadey Guy (2001)