A DOG owner is bringing his Alsatian with him during his visits to a dementia care home in Wellington after seeing the benefits on the residents.

When John Cutting’s mother Violet moved into a dementia care home in Wellington, he was regularly accompanied on his visits to Camelot House and Lodge by his 10-year-old Alsatian dog, Prince, and this proved to be the start of an ongoing involvement between John, his dogs and the care home.

Sadly, Violet passed away in 2020, followed by Prince in 2021, but dog-lover John acquired an Alsatian puppy, Rex, later that year, and last May he resumed his visits to Camelot House and Lodge for the benefit of the other residents.

John said: “Dogs have always been a huge part of my life and seeing Prince, being able to stroke him and talk to him, brought so much pleasure to my mum and the other residents.

“It was seeing the benefits to residents that inspired me to start volunteering with Therapy Dogs Nationwide with Rex.”

Therapy Dogs Nationwide assesses volunteers’ dogs to make sure they are sociable, have a sound temperament, resist the tendency to paw people and are generally suitable as therapy dogs.

Research shows that interacting with a therapy dog can reduce feelings of anxiety or sadness and has a calming effect, sometimes even leading to a measurable reduction in blood pressure levels, so staff at the Camelot House were keen to welcome John back with his new dog.

John said: “I met our assessor in a Tesco car park and hadn’t realised she’d been watching when other people approached us and made a fuss of Rex – she could tell what a big softie he is.

“We had to have a second assessment before he was approved because at our first meeting she witnessed him jump up and put his paws on my chest, but she said she knew he had what it takes to be a great therapy dog, and she was right.

“After further training it’s clear to see how sociable and reliably well-behaved Rex is, and I’m so pleased to be able to share the joy of having a dog with the lovely folk at Camelot House.”

In his early working life, John served with the police in Cheshire and says he always had a good working relationship with police dog-handlers and their canine colleagues.

Having now returned to his native Somerset for retirement, John is a member of the patient participation group at his local GP surgery, and considers he knows his way around the local health provision.

He said: “I have only good things to say about the team at Camelot House and Lodge, and I fed this back to the inspector from the Care Quality Commission when one of my visits to the home coincided with theirs.

“The staff are totally focused on the wellbeing of their residents: they treat them all with love and they respect their individual quirks and preferences.”

John and Rex visit Camelot House and Lodge once a month, make fortnightly trips to Tiverton Hospital where they visit patients on the general wards and John has also been taking Rex to medical centre flu vaccination clinics since he was four months old.

Therapy Dogs Nationwide is a national charity where visiting volunteers take their own dogs into establishments to provide comfort, distraction, and stimulation.

Dog-owners who are interested in learning more can contact them via their website www.tdn.org.uk Camelot House and Lodge is run by specialist dementia care provider Camelot Care who also have homes in Bridgwater, Plymouth and Yeovil www.camelotcare.co.uk