Adoptive owner Paul Doster, from Wales, couldn’t be prouder of his retired guide dog Harriet, who found a new career as a therapy pet after her previous owner suddenly died
Image: Gordon Young)
A guide dog whose owner suddenly died has found a new career as a therapy dog - and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
Labrador retriever Harriet spent four years supporting her blind owner, Kerry James, before he sadly passed away in February.
Kerry’s brother-in-law, Paul Doster, immediately applied to Guide Dogs to rehome Harriet and then found her a very important role at his work.
Paul is a lead therapist at Brynawel Rehabilitation Center in Llanharan, Wales, and now Harriet is helping patients to recover from mental health problems and substance abuse.
Paul said: “Once, she jumped on the bed of a man who had dementia, and he was so happy that he burst into tears as he stroked her.”
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Five-year-old Harriet is set to make her debut as part of the Pets As Therapy scheme, which will see her make therapeutic visits to schools, hospitals and mental health settings.
Paul explained: “Harriet worked as a guide dog to my brother-in-law, Kerry James, for nearly four years until his sudden death in February.
“Kerry lived with us near Bridgend and, like his previous guide dog Roxy, Harriet grew up as part of the family.
“It was an emotional time when Kerry died, but my wife and I love Harriet and were keen to keep her, so we applied to Guide Dogs to rehome her.
“I’ve had dogs all my life, but Harriet evokes such a unique set of emotions. She is special, and totally different from any dog I’ve ever had.
“She is lovely, she seems to understand you, and gives you unconditional love.
“She’s insightful, and when she walks into the therapy room she knows the emotions you are feeling. She picks up on things.”
He describes Brynawel as a very tranquil, positive place that has grown over the years and helps people get back on track with their lives.
Paul said: “I went there as a volunteer at first 13 years ago, and it was just one house for men with alcohol problems. Now it’s expanded over three houses and has a treatment program that helps both men and women.
“We’ve had clients in their 70s, and it’s one of the few centers for brain damage resulting from alcohol abuse.”
Harriet loves Brynawel and is a popular addition to the care team.
Paul explained: “She is sociable with people and attends my one-to-one sessions and therapy groups. She sits at the side of the clients and they gently stroke her.
“They go for walks three times a week and often ask if they can take her with them when they are accompanied by a member of staff. I also find they like to chat to me in the grounds when I’ve got her.
“When Kerry made his regular visits to the hospital, the nurses would often ask if they could take her onto the unit to meet other patients.
“I haven’t taken her to other establishments yet, but I have been given a list that includes schools, hospitals and mental health units. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Emma Rogers, Rehoming Officer for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “Harriet just looks like a dog who is talking to you.
“It was clear how much everyone cared for Harriet, and she was such a part of the family, so it was a pleasure to rehome her, and great to hear that she has an important new role.”
If you’d like to find out more about rehoming a guide dog, please visit their website.
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