It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Harvey, loyal companion of HUG’s founder, Amanda Saunders. Harvey passed away suddenly in late December 2012 and will be greatly missed. He was a wonderful ambassador for greyhounds in Ireland and attended many HUG events over the years to promote the breed as wonderful pets. He was also a Therapy Dog, only the second greyhound in Ireland to qualify for the programme. Below is an excerpt from Amanda’s article about his career as a therapy dog from one of our previous newsletters.
Having a busy life myself and seeing my greyhounds (four of) doing nothing but lie around the place having the nerve to look indignant if I have to move the poor hard-done-by things to hoover the house I decided the time had come for action against these lazy lummocks…. so I signed my Harvey up for a new job, as an Irish Therapy Dog!
We first met the folks at ITD at the Pet Expo in Dublin and they seemed a very friendly bunch so we sent in the application form (well, I must admit that Harv didn’t help with that part much) and Harvey and I were invited along for the assessment. This involved Harvey being handled by a stranger and various trays and wheelchairs being dropped and manouvered near him to check that a care home environment wouldn’t stress him out, all of which my boy took totally in his stride. He was also measured for his uniform, and a couple of weeks later we received a letter to say that Harv had passed his assessment and that we would be informed when a local care home required our services.
Soon our uniform arrived by courier and we received details of a local residential home for severely mentally and physically disabled young adults who would love to have us come and visit them. The home is only 10 minutes away from our house so I was delighted to accept. I was put into contact with the Activities Co-ordinator of the home and the time and date was set between us for our first visit. My own paid job is part-time but the hours are unpredictable so I made it known that if I had to work on our set days I would let them know straight away to reschedule and the co-ordinator was very understanding about this.
So, with some trepidation, Harvey and I donned our smart new uniforms and turned up at the care home at our appointed time for our first visit. The staff were all very welcoming and the residents – well, some of their reactions were just a delight to behold. Some didn’t want to talk to Harv but those that did showed wonderful beaming smiles as their hands stroked his soft fur and felt his face and body.
One lad in particular was a very hyperactive personality and when we first went in he was striding around and unable to settle, but after a few minutes of Harvey’s calm presence this lad sat in a chair and as Harvey moved closer he put out his hand and laid it on Harv’s shoulders and just sat like that for some time. It’s hard to describe but the reaction of the staff who knew this boy was such that I realised that something amazing was happening, and even I, who had never met this boy before, felt it as a very moving and emotional few minutes.
Five weeks on from when we first started visiting, I think I can safely say that our visits are very well worthwhile and I look forward to going each week. Harvey has gained a lot in confidence in that time – on our first visit he was slightly unsure but now he trots into the centre with a cheerfully wagging tail and seems to actively enjoy being around the residents. Harvey is the first Irish Therapy Dog in Kerry and one of only two greyhounds as Therapy Dogs in the Republic of Ireland. Bouncier breeds have their fun side but I think it was Harv’s calm nature which had the effect on the lad I talked about earlier.