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A three-year-old cockapoo is bringing happiness and joy to patients at Ashgate Hospice – all in memory of her owner’s mother who died in the hospice’s care.
Jill Durrant and her four-legged friend Maisie joined the North Derbyshire hospice last year and together they visit patients at the charity’s Inpatient Unit and Day Services site in Old Brampton, Chesterfield.
The 74-year-old has been volunteering at Ashgate since 2015 after her “kind and generous” mother, Kathleen Leadbeater, was cared for there before her death from bowel cancer the year prior.
She was inspired to train Maisie as a Pets As Therapy dog after meeting the hospice’s former PAT dog, Molly, who died in March 2021.
The pair, from Holymoorside, meet patients and help to reduce any stress and anxieties they might be experiencing.
Jill, a retired teacher, said: “My mother was a patient in Ashgate back in 2014 and peacefully died there after a week of wonderful care. There are no words to say how grateful I am, and I just wanted to give something back.
“I collected Maisie at 13 weeks old in October 2019 and of course, due to the pandemic, we couldn’t begin our visits until now; at the moment we volunteer every Wednesday afternoon.
“I think Maisie can offer comfort through physical contact and perhaps help some patients forget about their illness for a moment.
“Just stroking a dog is very soothing. They’re great listeners, totally non-judgemental and can be a quiet friend.
“I’d like to think we bring a bit of joy both to patients and staff at the hospice.”
To become a Pets As Therapy dog, Maisie has undergone a temperament assessment to check that she is sociable, friendly, calm and gentle.
Despite not being able to visit the hospice during the Covid lockdowns, she enjoyed taking Maisie on regular walks throughout their village.
Jill is proud to be able to represent the hospice – especially given how grateful she is for the care her mother, Kathleen received before she died, aged 95.
“She was a teacher all her life and volunteered for years too, which inspired me to do the same,” said Jill. “She was a bit of a trailblazer and in 1937 left her small mining community and went the Goldsmith’s College in London – a huge step then for someone of her working-class background.
“Her first day of teaching was the day the World War Two started. She was kind, generous, loved her garden and saw the best in everybody.”
Jill holds memories of her mother’s final days spent at the hospice dear to her heart, as Kathleen died peacefully a week after arriving at Ashgate with her loved ones by her side.
“She made it quite clear that she was ready to go and was not afraid,” Jill added. “My daughter and I spent a lot of time with her that week.
“The hospice was holding its summer fair; there was glorious weather and with Mum’s patio doors open she could hear the choir singing and the band playing.
“We took her flowers and plants from the plant stall and her room was full of colour and greenery.
“I’m eternally grateful that she was admitted to Ashgate. The care and compassion she received was outstanding and she died peacefully a week after being admitted.
“My daughter and I spent a lot of time with her that week. She was an avid tennis player and as a family we’d never missed Wimbledon.
“During her week in Ashgate we were able to watch some matches together as we’d done all my life – that last week was very precious.”
Anyone who would like to join Jill and volunteer at Ashgate Hospice can find out more on our website.