All the staff on Riverbank Ward at Bedford Hospital look forward to Wednesday mornings as this is the day Willis comes to visit.
Willis, a trained ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog brings happiness and peace of mind to Riverbank and has been gracing the children’s ward for two and a half years with his calm and soothing presence.
“Willis brightens up the lives of our children and young people and helps them to cope with what can be a very traumatic and stressful hospital experience”, says Brenda Robinson, the Health Play Specialist on Riverbank Ward.
“Willis adapts to the individual child’s needs and provides comfort and distraction for children and young people with special needs as well as those who suffer with mental health issues.”
Patients will respond to Willis by talking to him and stroking him, at times when doctors and nurses may not be able to communicate with them.
This helps the young patient become mobile and active and gives them confidence to undertake otherwise difficult tasks such as taking medicines.
“Willis has helped many children through their sometimes long journeys to recovery; as some children can spend weeks on the ward.
The thought of Willis visiting them on Wednesday morning can keep a child positive”, says Lara, Willis’ owner.
Willis also makes the lives of parents and carers easier, as it can give them a small, positive break from what can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing time for them.
Specially trained therapy dogs are a popular addition to any stressful situation, and while Willis loves the attention, he is trained to remain calm around children, some of whom could feel anxious.
Whether it be a tall teenager or a sleeping baby, Willis can cater for all needs and helps ease the tension in what can be a hectic environment.
He has even been nominated for a Pets as Therapy award, in recognition of all his wonderful efforts on Riverbank Ward and beyond.
So while a hospital stay can be upsetting, trying and irksome, Willis the Dog helps illuminate the ward, helping children and families alike forget their troubles for just a few golden moments.