A HOMECARE company’s animal-assisted therapy service has proven so popular that it has now been extended so even more people can benefit from the interaction with canine companions.

In July this year, Caremark Redcar and Cleveland launched a new service using four Labradors who have been trained as Pets as Therapy (PAT) dogs, so they are able to go into people’s homes.

The service was originally aimed just at Caremark customers, but after securing funding through NHS England and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, it was soon extended so other people could benefit too.

This included people living in care homes, those who attend day centres and in one case the dogs have even been helping someone come to terms with family bereavement.

And now Caremark are set to take this even further after staff and families took part in a sponsored 24-hour walk - using a treadmill - which raised £800. This means the dogs can go into schools who otherwise would not be able to fund the sessions themselves.

In addition to the four Labradors - Red, Chance, Emmie, and Axel – another dog, a Cockapoo called Wilma has also been added to the training team at the request of some customers who said they would like a dog who could sit on their lap.

All the dogs are owned by Caremark Redcar and Cleveland Managing Director Michelle Jackson.

The Northern Echo: One of the children at Zoe’s Place with Chance One of the children at Zoe’s Place with Chance (Image: ZOE'S PLACE)

She said: “We have been overwhelmed with the response to the animal assisted therapy and are delighted to have been able to extend it to even more people in the area.

“It’s a very person-centred service, so we look at how we the dogs can make a difference in people’s lives, for example one customer is unable to bend over to interact with the dogs but was desperate for a cuddle, so she likes to have Wilma sitting on the bed with her.

"Another customer, due to anxiety, felt unsafe going out of her home alone however she will now go outside when she has a visit from her favorite dog Red, because she likes to take him for a walk with the handler.

“The service is making massive, positive difference to people’s lives and we are excited about extending it into schools now the new school year is underway.”

One of the organisations to benefit from the dog therapy service is Zoe’s Place, a hospice in Middlesbrough which provides respite, end of life and palliative care for babies, infants, and children from across the Teesside – and wider North-East region – with life-limiting conditions and complex needs.

The Northern Echo: Another child at Zoe’s Place with Chance Another child at Zoe’s Place with Chance (Image: ZOE'S PLACE)

Zoe’s Place play leader Lauren Poyser said: “A lot of the children in the hospice are blind, so they really on their other senses and touch is a big one, so having the dogs in to stroke makes a massive difference to them.

“They have a real calming effect on the children and the staff benefit too; they provide therapy for everyone.”

One of the Caremark Redcar and Cleveland customers who received visits from the dogs is Bob Moodie, who lives in New Marske with his wife Kathleen.

He said: “We have had dogs and cats for over 50 years and the visits I have had from Chance and Red have been very uplifting and brought a smile back to my face.”

The Northern Echo: Caremark customer Bob Moodie with Red. Bob is one of the Caremark Redcar and Cleveland customers

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The funding for the animal assisted therapy services comes from NHS England’s Better Care Fund, which is administered by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

People can also pay for the service privately through Caremark Redcar and Cleveland.

People in the community who are interested in the dogs coming to their home, care home, day centre or any other venue, can contact Caremark on 01287-634706 or email redcar@caremark.co.uk