Residents of a care home in Caernarfon have some new four legged friends – including Gem the cocker spaniel.
Twelve year old Gem is a regular visitor to Bryn Seiont Newydd, the dementia centre of excellence that’s been built on the site of a former community hospital on the outskirts of the town.
Gem belongs to Megan Roberts who is a member of the Nantlle Vale Dog Training Group.
Other weekly visitors include fellow club members Jayne Grove and her black Labrador, Madog and Elly Hale and her German shepherd, Persephone.
According to Megan, she was initially surprised at just how keen some residents were to get acquainted with her very affectionate cocker spaniel, Meg.
She said: “It’s been amazing; residents seem to come alive when we visit. Some will talk about dogs they have owned in the past. It might be a struggle for them to remember but it has to be a good thing to stimulate those memories.
“It’s really special to hear residents reminiscing about their former pets. And Gem really enjoys the attention. She’s 12 now so getting on a bit and she does have a few grey hairs but she has bags of energy despite her age.
“Cocker spaniels and Labradors are ideal for visiting care homes as they are so gentle and affectionate. And Elly’s German shepherd, Persephone, is also such a gentle and friendly dog. We wouldn’t bring them in if the dogs didn’t enjoy it.
“In fact I’d go as far as to say the dogs enjoy the experience as much as the residents clearly do. They certainly get lots of attention and more than a few treats too.”
Nia Lloyd-Roberts, Bryn Seiont’s artist in residence and enrichment co-ordinator, came up with the idea of having pet dogs visit the brand new 71 bed care home that’s part of the Pendine Park care organisation.
She said: “Megan, Elly and Jayne kindly volunteered to bring their dogs in on a weekly basis and we are so grateful. You can see some residents’ faces light up as soon as they see the dogs. There is real joy and happiness.
“They like to show love and affection toward the dogs and it seems the dogs are only too happy to reciprocate. It’s quite a special thing to see.
“Many residents will talk about the dogs and pets they may have owned in the past and some will share stories and talk about their own experiences. It’s a good thing getting residents to think about the dogs and pets they may have had themselves.
“But it’s also good to see residents interacting with the dogs whether it’s stroking them or just talking to them.
“It’s also nice to have pets in the building. We want Bryn Seiont to be a real home to our residents not just a care home. It’s important residents feel this is their home and is a place where they can relax and feel safe.
“I’m delighted we have built up a relationship with Megan, Jayne and Elly and we are so grateful to them for giving up their time to come and visit Bryn Seiont and allowing residents to stroke and pet their wonderful dogs.”
Bryn Seiont resident Patricia Swift says she loves seeing the dogs when they visit.
She said; “I used to have a dog myself, a very beautiful dog. I like dogs and it’s nice to stroke them and just see them.”
Fellow resident Ella Owen added: “A very long time ago I had a dog. I love the dogs coming into to see us and letting me stroke them. The trouble is they get spoilt and eat too many biscuits.”
Megan Roberts says Nantlle Vale Dog Training Club meets at the Memorial Hall, in Penygroes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
She said: “There are a number of different classes to reflect the wide ability range of the dogs that attend. We have level one classes for puppies teaching them socialisation and basic skills right up to advanced level and agility classes.
“The club is growing and we run the Kennel Club Good Citizenship Award scheme which helps make dog owners aware of their responsibilities and teaches dogs how to be happy, healthy and well behaved in a public setting.
“Persephone is a gold award winner while Madog holds a silver award and is working toward her gold. I don’t take Gem along to classes as she is something of a veteran now. I do take my other, younger, dogs along.”
“It’s a fantastic club and as well as having a great deal of fun. It’s a good social event too as we get to meet up with lots of interesting and nice people. And the dogs certainly have a good time.”
For more information about Nantle Vale Dog Training Group call 01286 831092 or visit www.facebook.com/NantleValeDogTrainingClub