Therapy dog handler launches alternative to ward visits for young patients during coronavirus outbreak

Patient Ellie

A therapy dog handler at Southampton Children’s Hospital has launched an innovative alternative for to ward visits for young patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

While golden retrievers Leo, Milo, Quinn, Archie, Jessie, Hattie and Pollyanna can’t be at the bedside, their ‘pawtraits’ are as part of a #goldenhugsforall social media campaign.

Lyndsey Uglow, lead therapy dog handler at SCH, has delivered 1,500 drawings – produced by illustrator Daniel Howarth – of the pack of pooches for patients to colour in and share online for relatives and friends or to give to members of staff.

The idea is also designed to be utilised for children at home, with the pawtraits available to print from @SCHtherapydogs on Twitter or Facebook or to be downloaded and completed using a colouring app.

“As we are unable to make visits to young patients on the wards due to coronavirus measures, we wanted to find a way to maintain the presence of therapy dogs,” said Lyndsey.

“So we had the idea of creating a ‘pawtrait’ of the seven golden retrievers to give to patients which they can colour in themselves and share on social media for their friends and relatives or give to staff as a thank you.”

MessageShe added: “We are also urging any children who want a fun activity to do at home to use our drawings to write a message to someone they want to thank, can’t visit at the moment, a keyworker or even to the residents of nursing or care homes.

“When finished and before it is sent to the recipients we just ask people take a picture and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, tag @SCHtherapydogs and use #goldenhugsforall.”

Joyce Stebbings, youth and play services manager at SCH, said: “The therapy dogs are such an important part of life in the children’s hospital and not having them around is really tough for patients and our staff.

“This is fantastic idea to provide some kind of alternative to ward visits and means we all get to be reminded of the golden retriever team through this wonderful illustration.”

She added: “Despite the challenges coronavirus brings and the focus on our clinical work, the importance of ideas such as this and the positive effect it has on our patients and staff alike, as well as those at home, cannot be underestimated.”

Earlier this month, Lyndsey and eight-year-old Leo were crowned winners of the Friends for Life (children’s champion) award at Crufts, a category which recognises a dog that has supported and had a positive impact on children.

Lyndsey and Leo also released a video online last weekend to support the #StayHomeSaveLives campaign featuring Leo as Canine Medical Officer (CMO).

Posted on Sunday 5 April 2020