Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Canine Concern Scotland Trust was formed in 1988. This trust manages the service known as "Therapet" which works to promote the therapeutic value of dogs to people who for whatever reason are isolated from a normal association with pets.
Even the act of gently stroking a pet has been proven to slow down your heartbeat and this simple act can offer comfort to those who are anxious, insecure, ill, lonely or depressed. In my own experience, our old Collie "Tilly" brought a great comfort to my husband’s dear Dad when we visited him in his local Care home.
All breeds of dog are considered as Therapets. It is not the breed that is important; it is the dog's temperament. A very nervous dog may find visiting a strange place stressful, a boisterous dog may be difficult to control. To be considered as a Therapet a dog has to be friendly, outgoing, well- behaved, be comfortable around people and enjoy being made a fuss of. The dog has to be at least one year old and also have been with the current owner for at least six months. They should have basic dog training behind them and be able to walk calmly on a lead. They also must be free from disease, and be regularly wormed, microchipped and fully vaccinated in accordance with their Vet's recommendations. Dogs that pass the assessment for visiting adults must visit regularly for a year before they can be considered suitable for visiting children.
This wonderful scheme offers vulnerable and lonely people an unconditional acceptance, friendship, gentleness, patience and a non-judgmental, tactile response at every visit! Therapets bring with them affection, comfort, happiness and have been shown to actively contribute to the mental, physical, social and educational well-being of thousands of adults and children. Thousands of people benefit from their visits across Scotland and now students also benefit from "Paws against Stress", a fantastic new project piloted to help alleviate Student stress.
The Trust is always looking for more volunteers and their dogs. To become a Therapet volunteer you must commit to giving your time up for regular visits and ensure that your dog is healthy and clean before each visit. The Therapet application fee is £5, and the annual membership fee, which is required for insurance purposes, is £10 or £5 for senior citizens. Your dog will require an assessment for suitability which is done by the area representative. You must have two character references and be registered under the PVG: Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme, the Trust will process this on your behalf. Once accepted, your area representative will allocate you and your dog to a placement where they feel you would be most suited. Some dogs are more suited to visit Care homes and the elderly than to visiting children in schools for example. Your area representative will be there to guide you and give on-going advice.
There is no charge for Therapet visits. The Trust is a registered Charity and as such relies solely on donations and on the generosity of the local community and the bodies that benefit from the Therapet visits. Therapet groups throughout Scotland organise fundraising ventures all year round.
The Therapet Scheme is an excellent, admirable and rewarding charity to be involved in and to support. Their slogan speaks for itself: “We care for Dogs and Dogs care for us".
For information on how to get involved with the Trust and the Therapet scheme, please contact either the Area Representative, who is my former colleague, retired vet Stewart Donald, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Canine Concern’s Edinburgh office on email@example.com or by telephoning 0131 553 0034.