Rural Notes 06



One of my clients was delighted to receive confirmation last week that her application to have her dog accepted and registered as a ‘pat’ dog by Canine Concern Scotland Trust had been successful.

This registered charity was set up in 1988 with a broad list of aims to promote responsible dog ownership, act as a voice for dogs and dog owners where relevant, and encourage the development of relationships with pets as an alternative therapy for residents and patients at nursing homes or in long term hospital care.

This latter tenet resulted in ‘Therapet’ being developed, and promoted. The idea is that suitable pets (and their owners) commit to regular contact with the recipient, thereby providing contact with a pet for people who are not themselves able to have one. It has long been accepted that for many people, the simple act of stroking a dog has measurable effects, lowering blood pressure, heart rates and reducing incidences of heart attacks and strokes.

The selection process involves both dog and owner. The owner must pass statutory disclosure checks under PVG (protecting vulnerable groups). The dog needs to pass an assessment session. Lasting an hour, the patience of the dogs is tested as far as possible. They have their ears pulled, legs grabbed, head shaken; they are tormented with food morsels offered but not given. They are subjected to loud noises, and have strangers hands put into their mouths etc. If they can tolerate all this without showing any aggression, they are considered safe to enter hospices, nursing homes etc and meet their subjects.

Hunni is a 6 year old female Rottweiler, and everything to date in her life has prepared her for her role as a patient, loveable, affectionate and empathetic dog. She was found at 9 months old by a contractor working in a homeless refuge in West Lothian. She was kept locked in a cupboard, along with 3 other dogs, all of whom were desperately undernourished and severely infested with worms and fleas. Her rescuer took her home and introduced her to his young adult male Rottweiler who immediately developed a protective bond with Hunni and the pair became the closest of friends. The rescuer and his wife Gaynor then nursed Hunni to full health and fitness and restored her faith in human beings at the same time.

This was challenging initially as her early diet and stress levels had left her digestive system very sensitive to food with even modest levels of proteins. Perseverance paid off and within a few months she was a glowing, if slightly petite example of the breed. One can only speculate as to whether her early months played a role in her developing severe osteoarthritis 3 years ago. She has had extensive contact with the surgery as we and her owners have strived to manage this debilitating condition. Her exercise is necessarily restricted and as such her new role as a Therapet dog will give her invaluable stimulation, often hard to achieve when exercise is reduced.

Hunni is booked in to start regular visits at Esk Green Nursing Home and Findlay House in Edinburgh and we wish her every success in her new position.
For more information, either to access a therapet or to volunteer yourself and your dog, go to


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Glen Watson
Partner at Links Vet Group