PAT pets can come in all shapes and sizes, but our two Spread a Smile pets, Cassie and Oscar, are both cuddly dogs.

Cassie, with her owner Talia, has been visiting patients at UCLH, the Royal London and St Mary’s, since 2015 and has recently started visiting GOSH. Oscar, with his owner, Carolyn, has been visiting UCLH since early 2017.

The Pets as Therapy (PAT) charity has given the dogs accreditation by assessing each of them for suitability for hospital visits. They check the pet is sociable and friendly, that it is calm and gentle when being stroked or handled, and isn’t overly fearful of new and unexpected stimuli.

Cassie & Talia

Cassie is a six-year-old Cavapoo – half Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and half Miniature Poodle.

Talia, Cassie’s owner, said about the visits, “People of all ages seem to gravitate to Cassie, from the infants and toddlers who love to touch her fluffy coat, and point and laugh when she rings the bell, to teenagers who don’t feel like a chat, but would rather stroke and cuddle up to a warm and gentle dog, to the doctors and staff who get to have a short and uplifting break from their stressful jobs.

“Cassie constantly has a wagging tail and loves all the fussing and attention. She just seems to know whether to be silly and make the children laugh, or to be calm and cuddly when that’s what’s needed.”

“Volunteering for Spread a Smile is the most re­warding and incredible experience I have had the pleasure of taking part in.”

“I’m so proud of my little pup for what she does during a hospital visit. Even though it’s only a small difference, it seems to be a lasting one to the children and family’s day.”

Oscar & Carolyn

Oscar is a five and a half year-old Tibetan Terrier.

Carolyn, Oscar’s owner, said “I have been volunteering at Spread a Smile for the past two years and am constantly humbled by the amazing difference our entertainers make to so many children and their families, in particular Cassie our other gorgeous PAT dog. Knowing how much my dog Oscar loves human company, I was inspired to see whether he would be able to follow in Cassie’s paw prints. Little did I know what an impact it would have on both our lives.

“From the second we arrive on the ward at UCLH there is excitement and a friendly welcome for Oscar from both the families and the staff. In fact quite often the staff are just as pleased to see him as the children and come to find him for a stroke and a cuddle!

“A lot of children are missing their own family pets whilst in hospital so seeing Oscar really makes them smile. Often they are happy to chat to us both, even if they have been quite subdued or unhappy before we arrive. I can see how this affects not only the child, but also their parents and grandparents. I remember on my very first visit we saw a little boy who was so excited to see Oscar because he was missing his own dog. I put Oscar on the boy’s bed while he stroked him, and he chatted away non-stop the whole time we were there. I found out later that he hadn’t spoken for two or three days before Oscar had walked through his door.

“Oscar seems to really enjoy his visits. He loves getting attention from everyone and his tail is always wagging. As soon as he sees a child, he immediately lies down on the floor waiting for a stroke and if he’s really lucky a tummy tickle or even a cuddle! It’s quite tiring for him, so after a hard morning’s work, he comes home, curls up in his bed and snores all afternoon!

Seven year old Ryan loves Cassie and Oscar’s visits. He said: “The dogs are lovely, soft and friendly. I like making them happy, then they wag their tail and that makes me happy. I love it when they lie on my hospital bed and I love Cassie’s tricks. My favourite trick is when she rings a bell with her paw. They brighten my day and make me smile seeing them. The visits are important as they make lots of people happy.”