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Ashgate Hospice’s volunteer photographer Ellie Rhodes and her jet-setting cocker spaniel Luna have been bringing joy to animal-loving patients at the hospice.
Ellie, who first joined the hospice as a volunteer in her great-grandad’s memory, signed her four-legged friend Luna up as a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog last year.
Together, they have been visiting patients at the hospice’s Inpatient Unit to help reduce any stress and anxieties they might be experiencing.
Ellie said: “Luna loves it so much! As soon as we walk into the hospice, it’s as if she knows where she needs to be and what her job is. It’s just as much therapy for the staff and visitors as it is for patients.
“She is really intuitive and knows to be lively for visitors and staff, but as soon as she sees a patient, she chills out and usually just lays on the bed and sleeps with them. It’s so cute!”
“I’m loving it! It goes without saying that Luna makes everyone in my family super happy, but it’s lovely to see how much other people love her.”
Luna, a three-year-old working dog, not only enjoys putting smiles on the faces of patients, but she’s even been travelling across Europe with Ellie.
Ellie said: “Everyone thinks she’s a puppy! We call her a fake spaniel because she’s really calm, not bothered about food and won’t go out in the rain.
“She comes everywhere with us and has spent a lot of her time living in our campervan. We travelled Europe with her last year, she’s currently visited 15 countries and counting!”
Ellie, who works as a freelance photographer for her day job, has taken pictures of fundraising events and more for the hospice since she joined four years ago.
She said she was inspired to extend her volunteering efforts and train her four-legged friend as a PAT dog after taking her to visit her boyfriend’s late grandpa in a care home before he died.
“My boyfriend’s grandpa was in a care home a couple of years ago and I took Luna with me when I went to visit him,” said Ellie.
“He absolutely loved seeing her and was even still teasing her with a treat on the day he passed away. Seeing how much it cheered him up made me think Luna could put lots more smiles on faces!
“Knowing the hospice well, it was the first place I thought of visiting when Luna became a qualified PAT dog. Everyone has been so welcoming and the team on the Inpatient Unit on a Tuesday know Luna really well now!”
Anyone who would like to join Ellie and Luna by volunteering at Ashgate Hospice can find out more on our website.