A four-year-old cocker spaniel from Aberdeen has been crowned ‘top dog’ in a nationwide search for the paw-fect canine companion launched by Sue Ryder.
Eva, who is owned by 63-year-old Jon Turnbull, was selected as the winner in Sue Ryder’s search for an Ambassadog.
She will now become the official Ambassadog for Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre Dee View Court.
Mr Turnbull explained that he had been regularly visiting staff and residents at the neurological care centre with his canine companion before the Covid outbreak.
He said: “Eva is known as the blonde bombshell at Sue Ryder’s Neurological Care Centre in Aberdeen where we’ve been volunteering for three years. When she is happy, her whole body usually wags.
“Most patients have limited communication and mobility, but Eva just wants a cuddle. Many are in care long-term, so they crave a bit of normality which Eva offers in spades. They also want physical contact, Eva will sit on people’s laps.”
Mr Turnbull was determined to sign her up as a therapy dog after witnessing the difference she made to his friend’s life.
He said: “My friend Steve Morrison suffered from multiple sclerosis and was cared for at the Sue Ryder centre until he died in 2019. I visited regularly and first brought Eva to see him as a puppy.” He said.
“I saw first-hand the pleasure he got from watching Eva and stroking her. When Steve died, the staff suggested I carry on visiting. She passed her therapy assessment and we have been volunteering ever since.”
Eva was hit by a car last autumn while chasing a pheasant and broke her leg. The patients at Dee View Court made her special doggy flapjack biscuits and drew get well soon cards for her.
“It made me realise how special she is.” He added, “Steve would be delighted to know that Eva is bringing joy to people.”
The cocker spaniel is one of 10 canine companions who have been selected to carry out important duties at each of Sue Ryder’s neurological care centres, hospices, and palliative care hubs across the UK.
The charity believes the companionship a dog can provide can helps relieve stress and bring joy. The pets are asked to offer up puppy love and cuddles with the hope of brightening the days of patients, residents and staff.
Each Ambassadog has been assessed to make sure they fit the Pets as Therapy temperament assessment. They have been found to be sociable, friendly, calm and gentle enough to work with the patients.
Each owner is DBS checked and will undertake volunteer training before visiting services.
Chief executive of Sue Ryder, Heidi Travis, said: “Congratulations to the winners of our Ambassadog search. Pet therapy is a fantastic way to reduce stress and bring happiness to the people that use our end of life and neurological care services.
“We are all extremely excited to be able to welcome back our new Ambassadogs once the government announces that it is safe to do so.”