Photo courtesy of Canine Partners and Jenny Moir

At Severn Hospice we always try our best to accommodate the varying needs of all of our patients. Each of our patients is unique and receives the care and support that is right for them. Whenever a patient is referred to us we look at their needs and how best we can meet them.

When a patient with a canine partner – a trained assistance dog – was referred to one of our Day Hospices, it presented us with a bit of challenge. But our caring team did all that they could to ensure the patient, and her four-legged companion, were able to access the Hospice services they needed.

Since July 2012, Alison Whittingham from Oswestry has been attending our Day Hospice in Shrewsbury along with her canine partner Zelda, a two-year-old golden retriever.

Alison is the first patient we have ever cared for at the Hospice who has a trained assistance dog. Like so many other canine partners, Zelda is a very special dog that provides practical day to day support with tasks that may be difficult, painful, or impossible to perform for people with disabilities like Alison.

“Zelda is my wonder dog and does all sorts of things for me,” says Alison.“She can open and close doors, she can even get the washing out of the washing machine and dryer for me which is great as I could never reach the back of the washer or dryer.

“I’m always dropping things on the floor – before I would have to call my husband all the time but now Zelda will pick things up for me. She has changed my life and has given me my confidence back.”

Alison explains that she initially had some reservations about attending our Day Hospice but they soon disappeared when she arrived for her first visit.

“I was a bit nervous about coming to the Hospice but I needn’t have worried. The first day I came I was so wound up by the time I got here but when I came in everybody is so welcoming and made me feel at home,” she says.

“Nothing is too much trouble, it’s just wonderful. Now I look forward to coming to the Day Hospice every fortnight, I wish I could come every week.

Alison reveals that, despite some initial worries, Zelda has settled in to visiting the Day Hospice well and is a hit with fellow patients, volunteers and staff.

“I was really worried about bringing Zelda to the Hospice, I didn’t know if I would be able to bring her on the bus but she’s taken to it well and everyone on the bus has been brilliant helping me. We sometimes have to walk around the block a few times before she will get on the bus but we get there eventually, unless it’s raining and she’ll get on straight away as she doesn’t like the rain.

“All of the other patients who come to the Day Hospice have been wonderful. The first time I brought Zelda they had already been told not to touch her as it can distract her from helping me or give her any treats as she has a lot of allergies but now they’ll ask if they can stroke her and if I tell Zelda it’s ok to say hello, she will.

“Since I’ve been coming to the Day Hospice I’ve done lots of creative work and had some really nice massages which I find really soothing. It just so relaxing because I don’t have to worry about getting around, I get all the help I need. Having Zelda and coming to the Day Hospice has really changed my life.”


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