A North East nursing home has taken on a new staff member - with four legs and an unusual talent.

Two-year-old Honey has a gift for understanding Makaton - a language programme that uses symbols, signs, and speech.

The golden Labrador retriever has now become an integral member of the community at Tees Grange, a complex care nursing home in Stockton-on-Tees.

The Northern Echo: Honey has become an intergral member of the team at Tees Grange in StocktonHoney has become an intergral member of the team at Tees Grange in Stockton (Image: EXEMPLAR HEALTH CARE)

Honey’s journey began when she joined the Therapy Dog Nationwide training program at 12-weeks-old.

Here, she was taught essential skills, such as responding to interactions with people in distress, and the learning of Makaton – which helps people who have difficulties with verbal communication.

Makaton helps people communicate their choices, share information with their care team, and enables them to understand more about what is happening, using speech with gestures and pictures.

Tees Grange, which opened in July this year, is already making a profound impact on the lives of people that need complex care in the community.

Their Makaton understanding pup, who has been a part of the family since opening, has been described as “an invaluable presence at Tees Grange” by Catherine Pearson, home manager, and Honey’s loving owner.

The Northern Echo: Honey has a talent for understanding MakatonHoney has a talent for understanding Makaton (Image: EXEMPLAR HEALTH CARE)

She said Tees Grange’s furry friend has improved the overall atmosphere at the care home, fostering a sense of community and belonging, while offering emotional support.

“She can understand a lot of commands and plays an invaluable role in helping the people we support who use Makaton to communicate,” said Catherine.

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“Her presence has also made residents feel more at home, as many reminisce about the animals they’ve previously had in their lives.”

Catherine added that it is not only the residents who have benefitted from their new companion. Honey has also had a positive impact on the staff, her cheerful demeanour significantly boosting morale.

Tees Grange is part of Exemplar Health Care, a leading provider of nursing care that operates 47 homes across the North and Midlands for adults living with a range of complex and high acuity needs.