The Friends for Life competition at Crufts celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs, and the support man's best friend gives us in the face of adversity.
By, 11 Mar 2020
On Sunday, March 8th, the Friends for Life Award was presented by James Middleton himself to a very deserving pooch: Leo the therapy dog. Let’s take a closer look at this dog's amazing journey.
A dog with a job
It takes a lot to be a therapy dog! You must be calm, gentle, obedient, patient, adaptable, and friendly, without being too rambunctious, and most of all, you must love your job!
But it seems Leo the Golden Retriever was born for the task. At only one year of age, he passed his Pets as Therapy assessment and completed his environmental training at a hospital.
Since then, he's been visiting Southampton Children's Hospital around 2 times a week, saying hello to patients who are going through all sorts of treatment, and comforting them as well as their parents.
“We may be asked to distract a child while a procedure takes place on the ward or in a treatment room. We sometimes help with physiotherapy and rehab tasks. Other times we may support a child going to theatre by escorting them to the anaesthetic room,” says handler Lyndsey Uglow, when describing Leo's work.
Lyndsey has been raising therapy Goldens in her home for quite some time now. In fact, Leo is her fourth dog out of five to qualify so far!
“Temperament and a real bond with the handler is what makes a good therapy dog. You can't do animal assisted intervention without the animal!", she adds.
And that is exactly why the two were presented with the prestigious award. Though Leo is part of a team of six dogs at Southampton Children's Hospital, he has, over time, earned himself a position as ‘leader’ due to his exceptionally kind nature and his special relationship with Lyndsey.
Touching lives, saving lives
Nominated by the Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, the pair has changed the lives of many. When asked to give some specific examples of this, Lyndsey told Wamiz:
“Oscar is one of our many special patients. Oscar was paralysed and they had not seen him smile since he fell ill. He saw Leo and smiled. We continued to visit him right through his treatment and have kept in touch. Leo recently supported Oscar through a check up involving an MRI scan which Oscar had knowing that Leo was outside the room waiting for him. He had that without any sedation after watching our Leo goes to X-ray video on YouTube.”
She also mentioned the story that got her and her team to Crufts in the first place:
“We had supported a specific patient who did not have their parents with them at the time and Leo really helped that particular young lady.”
We can certainly imagine how that beautiful smiling face would help someone who’s feeling ruff…he certainly left us beaming after we'd met him at Crufts!
Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life
At the end of the day, Leo is just a dog, and he wouldn't be able to do such a great job at the hospital if he didn't love it! In fact, Lyndsey says Leo “lights up” when he walks into the ward where his favourite patients, usually long-term residents, are staying (not that there are favourites, right Leo?)
“When they leave he sometimes looks for them in the same area and looks a bit sad....but then soon he realises there is a potential new friend in that bed and he starts to get to know them instead.”
But what truly makes Lyndsey and Leo the perfect recipients of the award is the connection they share outside of work.
“He is my pet first and foremost and his welfare means everything to me,” Lyndsey told Wamiz.
And though Leo wasn't able to get us James Middleton’s number, we think that he most definitely earned this distinguished award.
Thank you for all the hard work you and your siblings do at the Children's Hospital Leo, you truly are heroes!