Shuna, a therapy dog at Derian House Children’s Hospice, is celebrating five years of sharing joy with the children and young people at the hospice, thanks to her cuddles, soft fur, floppy ears and calming smile.
Not only does the 11-year-old German shorthaired pointer visit the hospice weekly – you can often spot her out and about at Derian House events or taking part in challenges to raise vital funds for the hospice.
Most recently Shuna even won an award for ‘Mutts Amount Raised’ in Derian House’s Top Dog fundraiser after raising over £1,000 for the Chorley hospice by walking more than 100km in February.
Shuna’s owners, retired teachers Linda and Phil Martlew of Wrightington, first registered Shuna as an official Pets as Therapy dog seven years ago.
Linda said: “Shuna loves coming to Derian House. She always gets a lot of cuddles and strokes and the children and young people love her. It’s so lovely because for just that moment, Shuna becomes their pet. She has a way about her that we call the ‘Shuna effect’. She’s very calming and the best part of it is when you see a child’s eyes light up when she enters a room.”
Phil said: “People always say, ‘Oh Derian House must be a sad place’, but it’s the opposite! It’s an incredibly happy place. We love to visit with Shuna, especially when we see all the smiles that she brings.”
The benefits of having a therapy dog have been well documented, with studies showing stroking a pet can reduce stress and bring a calming effect.
Frances Lees, Volunteer Services Coordinator at Derian House, said: “Thank you to Shuna and her owners for bringing five years’ worth of love and cuddles to Derian House’s families and staff – and I’m sure there are plenty more to come.
“At Derian House we welcome volunteers of all kinds. It will cost £6million to run services at Derian House this year, and so they play a vital role in what we do at Derian House and make an incredible difference to our families – we simply couldn’t do without them!”
Derian House, based in Chorley, Lancashire, cares for more than 400 babies, children, young people and their families from across the North West and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Derian’s visiting dogs are volunteers with the Pets as Therapy charity that provides therapeutic pet visits across the country. To find out more, visit: https://petsastherapy.org/