Donny the PAT dog

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Recently we welcomed solicitor Mark Summerfield and his dog, Donny, a 7 year old cavalier King Charles spaniel, to the Spread a Smile team. We caught up with Mark to ask him about Donny and what motivated him to start visiting the hospitals with his dog.

“I have known Josephine, one of the charity’s founders, for some time. I knew about Oscar and Cassie, Spread a Smile’s other Pet Therapy dogs and the great work they were doing in hospitals, and I suggested that Donny and I join the team.

“We had to go through the Pets as Therapy (PAT) training before we were able to visit the hospitals but I found the whole process relatively painless. Donny passed with flying colours. Even they thought he was a great candidate for PAT work.

“I thought Donny would be a great dog to visit children in hospital. He is so placid and particularly good with kids.  He is so affectionate and kids love to hear about how he lost the sight in one of his eyes. (It happened when he was one, after being hit by a van.  He was staying with some friends of ours and got homesick and ran home when he was hit.  He was in a coma for a few days but came round). He is also a bit deaf, actually a lot deaf, and is generally quirky.”

Mark and Donny made their first visit to University College Hospital in December 2017. Mark says he was a bit cautious at first but fine and “relaxed when I saw Donny triggering smiles from everyone he met. Before taking Donny in for the first time, I’d joined a visit with Carolyn and her dog Oscar, so I knew what to expect.

“I was really looking forward to the first visit and Donny was really great.  He sat on the beds of many of the kids and teenagers and made himself at home.  He enjoyed the attention.  I was very impressed with him.

“I am really looking forward to my next visit and I would do lots more if I didn’t have a day job to go to”.