The word ‘walkies’ will have extra significance for Springer Spaniel Kasper when he takes part in the Chilterns 3 Peaks Challenge alongside other Rennie Grove Hospice Care supporters on Sunday September 10.
For Kasper is already a regular Rennie Grove volunteer; he and owner Anna Barrett are familiar faces at Grove House where patients enjoy his canine company as part of the Pets as Therapy (PAT) scheme.
Anna, husband Ian and four-year-old Kasper, from Chiswell Green, will be taking part in the popular sponsored walk for the first time this year. And while Anna and Ian will be wearing their walking boots, Kasper will stand out from the crowd in his distinctive Pets as Therapy (PAT) jacket.
Kasper and Anna have been visiting Grove House most weeks for around two years, spending an hour or so with patients who enjoy stroking him and sharing memories of their own pets.
“Rennie Grove was appealing for people with dogs to go in and visit. Kasper is quite a calm chap and I just knew he’d be suitable. He’s very therapeutic with me, and I wanted to share that with other people,” said Anna, who explained that her mother received hospice care some years ago and so the cause is close to her heart.
She subsequently registered Kasper with the Pets as Therapy (PAT) charity and he is now one of three local pet dogs that visit Grove House patients. Research shows that stroking an animal triggers a chemical reaction similar to a ‘feel good factor’ and that being in the presence of an animal can be comforting, said Anna.
In return, Kasper enjoys the fuss made of him by both patients and staff at Grove House and is alert, interested and responsive to all that’s going on, she added.
“It is lovely to see the enjoyment others get from having him stand by them or lean against them. It’s lovely if you are a dog lover, but even those who aren’t have told me that they really appreciate him.”
The Chilterns 3 Peaks Challenge, now in its eighth year, is a scenic walk of five, nine or 18 miles, taking in Whiteleaf Cross, Coombe Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon. Arriva provide double decker buses free-of-charge and volunteer drivers to transport walkers – two-legged and four-legged alike – back to their vehicles. Their kind support and the generous sponsorship from Bucks Building Society means that more of the funds raised by walkers can go straight towards helping families affected by cancer and other life-limiting illness.
Entry costs £20 for adults, £10 for children, while U5s and dogs can take part free-of-charge. It’s recommended that dogs are kept on leads, but the route is along public footpaths and so the final decision rests with the owner.
Medals are awarded to participants as they finish the walk – including dogs!
To register, call 01442 820740 or visit the event page.
To find out more about Pets as Therapy visit www.petsastherapy.org