Local hospitals introduce therapy dog to improve staff wellbeing

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) has welcomed Thunder the Therapy dog, an 8-year-old Woolly Siberian Husky known for his soothing and signalling abilities.

Introduced by the Health & Wellbeing team, Thunder has undergone training since he was a pup after displaying signalling abilities for health and emotional issues, alongside his brother Thor and sister Binny Boo.

Zoe Lintin, Chief People Officer for the Trust, said: “We know how important it is that our colleagues feel appreciated, valued and cared for.

“By introducing Thunder, we know that the impact can only be a positive one. Our colleagues have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and this is just another way to show that we thank them for all they have done and continue to do.”

So-called for his thunderous plodding around the house, Thunder is incredibly sensitive and perceptive to a range of conditions. He was the first of his siblings to lick a person’s temple, indicating the start of Dementia. He has since gone on to signal for emotional issues, abuse, pregnancy and more.

Within the NHS, Thunder is renowned for his ability to lower stress and anxiety levels and give staff, and indeed patients, a break from their everyday worries.

Funded by Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Charity, the Trust are delighted to have Thunder for 33 weeks; he made his debut at the end of June on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI).

Speaking of the visit, handler Adrian said: “We had a fantastic debut visit with the amazing ICU Team at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

“It was very hot outside and Thunder had the aircon on him all the way there.

“Thunder made some great new friends and was treated with lots of love and affection by the staff, he even clicked emotionally with a couple: he’s always right.”

Thunder works in ten NHS locations and eight Special Educational Needs (SEN) Schools. He has worked for The Home Office and West Yorkshire Police with impoverished children who have been affected by the pandemic, helping reintroduce them to education.

He also works as an End-of-Life (EOL) dog. For this, Thunder will lay with a patient, hold their hand with his paw, slow his heart rate and breathing to that of the patients and then kiss them a happy onward journey.

Thunder wears many hats, and in addition to his EOL work he is written into a medical care package and is a Physio Support Dog. He has looked after 17 people to date and is currently caring for 3.

Becki Rowley, Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, manages Thunder’s schedule for visits.

She said: “As a big believer in animal therapy, I was delighted to help introduce Thunder into our DBTH family. Hearing and witnessing first-hand just what Thunder achieves with the people he meets, is nothing short of incredible.

“Thunder has an air of affection, compassion and empathy that compliments his gentle nature perfectly. He is – and continues to be – a much loved member of Team DBTH and we look forward to welcoming him into many more areas and departments.”

Thunder has worked with children who are selective mutes but have spoken when with him. He also works with mental illness and violence issues and has been there and helped many throughout the various lockdowns.

He displays new signals all the time, it is simply a matter of finding out what they mean.

On meeting Thunder, one colleague said: ““I can genuinely say he has made my day, the five minutes just getting to fuss him was everything!”

Another said: ““He is so beautiful – you can see the kindness in his eyes.”

Colleagues are invited to book Thunder for their area through the Health & Wellbeing team. He will makes his visits every Thursday from 1 – 2pm.