When Richard Wood’s wife Jacky was cared for by St Wilfrid’s Hospice in June last year, their dog Buzz visited with him every day and was a big hit with patients and staff.
After Jacky’s death, Richard wanted to do something long term in her memory – and that is how Buzz got involved in becoming a certified Pets as Therapy dog.
Buzz is a cockapoo, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle. This was the first of the ‘designer dogs’ – not a pure dog breed, dating back to the 1960s and known for their intelligence and affectionate nature.
Richard approached Sussex Caring Pets, a charity that promotes the benefits of animal-assisted therapy for those in need.
Their teams of volunteers take their temperament-assessed therapy support dogs and cats to visit those who would benefit from the stimulus of interaction with an animal, whether they are in hospitals, hospices, residential care homes, universities or in main or special needs schools.
So, as far as Buzz is concerned, that means visiting lots of lovely people, lots of fuss, and cuddles for everyone.
Richard was born in Northumberland in 1948. His father was a vet and as a youngster, Richard would accompany him on his visits to the farms in the area.
They always had dogs and cats, and Richard says he would never be without them.
He attended the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, where he met Jacky, who was studying at Gloucester Teacher Training College. They married and moved to Chichester in 1972.
They lived in this area from that point on, apart from two years in Peterborough, and Richard worked for the county council in the property department, managing agricultural smallholdings.
Jacky was a talented textile art and design tutor, and undertook commissions for the Duchess of Richmond and Parham House, near Storrington.
It was at one of Jacky’s classes that someone mentioned a friend who would be unable to take Buzz to her new housing association home and, having had dogs throughout their married life, Richard and Jacky were delighted to offer to have Buzz live with instead.
Now, Richard relies on Buzz as his companion since Jacky passed away.
His decision to get involved with helping the hospice, making use of Buzz’s natural people skills, makes a real difference to the patients being cared for there.
A Pets as Therapy dog needs to be sociable, confident and no aggressive. With his big heart and fondness for cuddles, Buzz was the ideal candidate and became an approved Pets as Therapy dog, complete with certificate.
Buzz turns four this month and enjoys an excellent diet of Wolf Tucker, a natural dog food made in Sidlesham.
Buzz and Richard meet patients on the ward at St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Chichester, visit the day centre and will soon also be attending the bereavement counselling group. The hospice is very grateful for the commitment he brings to the role.
Buzz is indeed a very clever canine, ‘writing’ a monthly blog about their adventures for the hospice. Visit stwh.co.uk/keep-up-to-date/blog for more information.