Meet Thomas, one of our Therapy Dogs and his owner, Spread a Smile Visit Manager Olivia Leich.
Thomas is an 8-year-old miniature Australian Labradoodle – a breed known to be wonderfully calm companions. We spoke to Olivia about Thomas, how he became a Therapy Dog and the important role he plays during their hospital visits.
“Thomas is such a lovely dog – peaceful, calm and a real comfort. When a colleague suggested that Thomas might make a brilliant Therapy Dog for Spread a Smile, I thought it would be perfect for him.
He had an interview with a ‘Pets As Therapy’ Dog Assessor to check his suitability – things such as whether he jumped up at people, barked, was friendly and calm around children and how he reacted to sudden movements and loud noises. Needless to say he passed with flying colours and since February this year, he’s been joining me for three shifts a week visiting hospitals.
Thomas’ role is to bring happiness, spread smiles and distract away from the hardships of life in hospital. He is a natural, immediately putting people at ease. From the moment I clip on his Spread a Smile bandana, he is so excited to get going, waiting by the door for us to leave.
As soon as we enter the hospital Thomas takes his role very seriously and really enjoys visiting the children on the wards. Everyone has the opportunity to open his treat box and give him a treat, but first they have to ask him for a high five and a fist pump before he is rewarded. He never fails and always takes the treat as if it’s the first one he’s ever had!
Thomas is very caring and proud of what he does. He can sense if a child is really unwell and bed bound and needs him to be calm and still. He will let me gently place him on the bed close to them, where he will lie calmly so that the child can stroke him or brush his fur.
During a typical week, Thomas might meet between 10 – 30 patients across various paediatric wards ranging from intensive care to rehabilitation clinics, outpatients, A&E and long term stay wards.
Quite simply, Thomas is an integral part of the team, bringing another level of joy and this joy is felt not just by the patients but also by their families and staff on the wards. I couldn’t imagine doing my job without him. Seeing the happiness he brings to the wards is incredible. He brings a sense of calm, fun and love which is immeasurable.”