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Spreading Christmas cheer: life as a pet therapy dog

15 December 2017

Meet Hepzibah, Birmingham St Mary’s very own pet therapy pooch! A much-loved fluffy face amongst our individuals and their loved ones, Christmas is ‘Hepzi’s’ favourite time of year at the Hospice. With a little help from her owner, Sue, here, she gives us a unique insight into life as a pet therapy dog, as well as share her favourite festive traditions…

The best part of visiting Birmingham St Mary’s is making people smile. That’s one of my favourite things to do – to make people smile – along with eating treats and chasing squirrels of course!

As soon as me and Sue – she’s my human friend – get in the car to go to the Hospice, I am always raring to get there. I love to see all the individuals and their families and friends, as well as the staff and volunteers.

But what’s even better than visiting the Hospice on a normal day is being able to go there during the festive season. Christmas is my favourite time of year – everyone is so merry and cheerful, there are always lots of fun activities happening and I always seem to get extra tasty presents!

At the Hospice, the first thing Sue and I do is head to the Day Hospice to say hello to everyone there. I always get so much fuss and it’s really comforting to be able to sit at people’s feet and relax with them. Now that Christmas is approaching, everyone at the Day Hospice seems to be doing a different festive activity each week. Last week, people were making Christmas cards and gift bags in the arts and crafts corner and this week, I hear a choir is popping by to spread some festive cheer.

After I’ve spent some time at the Day Hospice, Sue and I go for walkies around the Hospice. We like to see everyone staying at the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit, as well as the loved ones and friends who are visiting. Sue normally hands out treats to people who want to pet me. Even if someone can’t stroke me, I’ll always go up to them and say hello if they’ve got a delicious biscuit in their hand.

Whilst I’m at the Inpatient Unit, I love to head out into the garden. For the first time this year, it’s been transformed into a Winter Wonderland and is full of Christmas trees with twinkly lights and glittery gifts. Every time I head out there, I like to have a good sniff of the presents under the trees – you never know, but Santa may have left me a tasty bone or a squeaky toy this year…

But even though I haven’t received any Christmas presents just yet, the best bit of the festive season is being able to spend time with friends. Over the five years that I’ve been visiting the Hospice, I’ve been lucky to meet some wonderful people who have become good companions. One of my closest friends is a lovely woman called Margaret, who I normally see at the Day Hospice. She always gives me lots of attention and has a big grin on her face whenever she sees me. Then there’s that very happy gentleman staying at the Hospice. He likes to tell me about his dog at home and how his favourite thing is to play with rabbits at the park. I love hearing about other dogs as it’s nice to talk about something which brings joy and happiness.

Once our day is over, Sue and I will head home and tuck into some festive grub – all chicken and no sprouts for me! Then it’s just another week before I can visit the Hospice once again. If you are at Birmingham St Mary’s over Christmas, be sure to keep an eye out for Sue and I – you can’t miss me as I’ll be the big fluffy dog wearing a Christmas hat!

Thank you Hepzibah for sharing your story with us! We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and we look forward to seeing you at the Hospice over the festive season.

Sue and Hepzibah are part of our pet therapy team who visit the Hospice once a week. If you would like to find out more about our different services, take a look here.