THE SAYING goes that dog is man’s best friend, and that is certainly the case for many of the patients and staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital.
For the newest recruit to be walking the wards does not come bearing a stethoscope and chart, and he is almost always guaranteed to put a smile on the face of those around him.
Whether that be someone nearing the end of their life, in the middle of a mental health crisis or a doctor who has had a particularly challenging shift, Jasper the Cockapoo has been enlisted into the hospital’s ranks for one important job — to make people smile.
“People change when they see him, their faces light up and they benefit from being in his company,” said hospital chaplain David Anderson, who is also Jasper’s owner.
Reverend Anderson decided to train Jasper after the hospital’s last therapy dog, a golden retriever named Saoirse, moved away from the area when his surgeon owner moved jobs.
He said: “I’d seen the impact Saoirse had on patients and felt the need to fill that void. I decided we could try training Jasper, he loves to be stroked and getting attention, so it was just a case of training him with a behaviourist so he could pass his assessments.”
Now almost fully-trained, Jasper, Reverend Anderson and a second hospital chaplain Francis Parkinson can be seen walking the wards together once or twice a week, visiting those who have specifically requested to see them or those who are just passing by.
And not many pass him in the corridors without stopping to say hello.
Speaking about the benefits Jasper can have on the hospital’s morale, Reverend Anderson said: “He’s not just here for the patients, he is for the staff too. Some will take him out for a walk or just sit with him. It is good for them to have a laugh and a giggle, it brings a smile to their faces and that is the most important thing Jasper can do - make someone smile.”
When Jasper is not at work, he enjoys life just like any other normal family pet, going on long walks or chewing one of the many toys he has been gifted from one of his admirers.