Meet our Hospice Therapy Dogs


Meet our Hospice Therapy Dogs

Why our 4 legged friends offer support and comfort during end of life care

Pets are often people’s life-long companions, they hold a special place in our hearts. Being around animals during challenging times can provide comfort, support, and bring back happy memories when we need it most. That’s why at St. Rocco’s, our Volunteer Therapy Dogs play an important role in supporting patients during their time at the hospice.

Meet our pawsome friend Ruby.

Name: Ruby.  

Age: 3.

Breed: Australian Labradoodle. 

Favourite food: Chicken, cheese, and sausages.

Favourite thing to do: Run on the beach.

Ruby, and owner Nadine have been volunteering their time at the hospice for over 12 months.

Why did you decide to train your dog as a therapy dog?

When we got Ruby as she was our first dog, we didn’t know what to expect, she was very easy to train highly intelligent and everyone we met kept saying how calm she was even as a puppy. I already volunteered at the hospice in the office, and I asked if the hospice had a therapy dog and was told sadly, they didn’t. I then investigated the role of therapy dogs and had Ruby assessed by a dog trainer and she confirmed that she had the right attributes to undertake the role. The dog trainer gave me some pointers in how to teach Ruby to behave in a hospice setting and came into the hospice with me on a few visits. The breed originated in Australia, and they were bred mainly to be used as therapy dogs and guide dogs for people who are allergic to dog fur, Ruby’s fur is hypoallergenic she doesn’t shed her fur a lot like other dogs do.

What does a typical day look like when volunteering at the hospice?

We arrive at the hospice and report to the In Patient Unit and are advised by the staff which patients would be receptive to a visit, as not everyone likes dogs. Ruby is then introduced to the patient and sometimes family or visitors and if the patient wants her on the bed she jumps up for cuddles and she likes to give out kisses! Ruby had her photo taken and been filmed countless times it helps that she will do anything for a treat. Ruby loves being fussed by the staff, and we always call in to see the volunteers in the craft room before we leave.

What is your favourite quality you recognise in Ruby?

I am extremely proud of how she interacts with patients she’s never met and how gentle she is with them as though she knows they need some love from her.

When visiting the hospice, Nadine notices the joy radiate from patients, some of whom have never stroked a dog before. Remembering one family in particular who asked about Ruby’s breed, as they were looking themselves to get a dog to help with grief. Patients, families, staff and volunteers are all so grateful for a visit from Nadine and Ruby.