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A nine-year-old therapy dog has become the first therapy pet volunteer to receive a Long Service Award at St Oswald’s Hospice, based in Gosforth.

Maida the Borzoi and her owner Julia Marvin from Ponteland have been visiting St Oswald’s patients and their families every week since 2012. Maida is said to be very well known throughout the hospice and patients, children and young adults always look forward to her visits.

St Oswald’s provides care for adults, young people and children in the North East with life-limiting conditions. The Long Service Awards were held during Volunteers’ Week in the Hospice and celebrated achievements of staff and volunteers who have been at the Hospice for between five and thirty years.

Julia explains, “Maida and I recently attended the Long Service Awards at St Oswald’s, where we were awarded a five year Long Service badge. As far as I know, Maida is the only dog to have attended such an event.

“Before we joined the Hospice as volunteers, I had been a supporter for many years, so when I saw that they needed more therapy dogs, I got in touch. We were both made very welcome from the start. Both of us enjoy coming to the Hospice, where we meet lots of friendly and interesting people.  I think that the patients, children and also their families, appreciate the calmness that Maida brings, and also find that a change of focus is sometimes very welcome.

“My role has been clear from the very beginning. After our first visit over five years ago, many people remembered Maida’s name, but it took considerably longer for most people to remember me. That is just how it should be, because Maida really is the star, and I am simply her taxi driver and lead-holder. During the past year, Maida’s nephew Harley and niece Dotty have also started visiting the Hospice with me, and Maida is starting to think of retirement as she will be ten years old in September.

“From time to time, when we are out and about, people approach us and tell us how much their relatives enjoyed the visits from Maida when they were at St Oswald’s – of course, it is Maida that they recognise, not the taxi driver! This always brings home to me just how much our visits are appreciated.”

Maida and Julia

Christine Ward, Volunteer Development Manager says, “The patients at St Oswald’s have really adopted Maida, after over five years with us she is part of the ‘family’. Maida is our first therapy pet to receive a long service award and we were thrilled to be able to present her and Julia with it.”

Julia adds, “If you have a calm, friendly pet and have an hour or more a week to spare, then I’d really recommend having your pet assessed to be a therapy pet with one of the national charities, who are always looking for new volunteers and would welcome you. The charities have volunteers who visit many types of places, including hospitals, hospices, care homes and schools. Maida and I are with the charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide. The patients get a lot of benefit from cuddling and petting Maida, and it’s great for the animals too. It’s lovely to see Maida with the patients, and knowing that she’s making a difference to their day.”

Maida is one of several therapy dog and cat volunteers at St Oswald’s and they are looking for more qualified pets to join. To find out more, please contact St Oswald’s volunteer office on 0191 246 9125 or email volunteer@stoswaldsuk.org

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