Maysie; the wonderful therapy dog & her sister Jemma

Meet Vitalin’s pets of the Month for February!

In December 2020, Vitalin ran a competition to win ‘Pet of the Month’ for 12 months of 2021. February’s winners are Maysie and Jemma, who posed beautifully in their garden for their mum, Alison.

When we contacted Alison for more details about her girls, we discovered that Maysie is in fact a therapy dog, undertaking important work that will, we feel, become even more crucial in the months ahead, following the current pandemic.

We really want to support Maysie’s work, so Vitalin has decided to sponsor her over the coming months and would like to tell you all about her and her important role in her community.

Maysie the therapy dog

Alison got Maysie from The Dogs Trust in Newbury 7 years ago, aged only nine months old. Maysie has always been a friendly and very laid-back girl, which are two key attributes for any successful therapy dog.

In 2017, whilst sat with her dogs after a long walk, Alison was approached by a representative for Therapy Dogs Nationwide (TDN), who asked if she had thought about joining them with her dog(s).

At the time Jemma was and still is nervous and Maysie was reactive with some dogs (mainly black retrievers after having three chase her not long after Alison brought her home) but the TDN representative actually had a black retriever with him and Maysie remained on her best behaviour.

After applying to join, Maysie passed with flying colours – she remained calm throughout her session and accepted all handling of her coat, ears, feet etc. She also allowed someone to brush her, accepted treats, walked calmly on a loose lead and laid still until she was asked to move.

Maysie’s first therapy visit was to her local care home. She had a great reception - everyone was so pleased to see her. Maysie made a big impression on a lady with dementia, who sat smiling and stroking her. The lady in question never usually showed any emotion so this was actually quite a big moment within the nursing home for the staff to observe. Since then, Maysie visited the home every week until March last year (due to Covid restrictions) and now misses her visits very much. Alison does however continue to send photos, posters and videos to the residents to maintain the connection and offer some light relief where possible. 

In addition to the care home, Maysie also visits her local school. On her first visit, the children in key stage 1 lined up to stroke her, which she loved. Despite huge amounts of excitement from the children, Maysie remained calm and, in her mum’s own words, bombproof. The school also has a ‘nurture room’, where Maysie visits children on an individual basis, who require a little extra support from her. Maysie started to visit the school twice a week to listen to the children read - she loved it as much as the children. Unfortunately, this also stopped in March last year due to Covid restrictions, but Alison again sends posters and photos of Maysie and also colouring pages of her in uniform, for the children to complete. 

Maysie has done separate one off visits to a nursery group for young Mums and babies, Alison has also given talks to several organisations and together, they have been to Crufts twice to represent TDN. At Crufts, Maysie was on the Kennel Club stand, listening to children read.

During lockdown, Alison has read stories online for children to access on YouTube and Facebook. She also dresses the girls up to keep people's spirits raised.

These images were enjoyed so much that Alison was asked to make a calendar with them, which she sold to raise money for TDN, a dog rescue charity and her local church. 

Jemma and her sisters

Jemma was born at Border Collie Trust GB, which is close to her home - Alison was lucky enough to have had her since she was a pup. Jemma is crossed with a Bearded Collie and is now five and a half years old. Jemma is extremely clever and loves tricks and helping around the home. 

In addition to Jemma, Alison owns two girls; Cassie, who was a rehome, originally from an Irish rescue. Cassie has been part of the family for 2.5 years - she's nearly 7 years old, is very active and a typical sheep dog. 

Floss is the most recent addition to the family. Also rehomed, she has only just turned 1 year old. Floss is also very clever, is excitable and loves learning. In time and with a bit of calming, she may too make a great therapy dog in the future.

Therapy Dogs Nationwide (TDN)

Therapy Dogs Nationwide is a national charity, which was formed in 2016, run by volunteers for volunteers.

The charity has five Trustees, who each have many years’ experience of working with Therapy dogs. Because of their dedication, hard work and a strong belief in what they are doing, there are now over 1000 volunteers active across the UK.

Every prospective dog is assessed for its suitability by a trained assessor in order to ensure the dog has the right temperament. Owners are made fully aware of what is expected both from them and their dog before they undertake and therapy work. All breeds and cross breeds are accepted as TDN dogs; it is the dog’s temperament and good health that is important.

Once assessed, these wonderful dogs, along with their owners, visit many types of establishments: hospitals, hospices, care homes, prisons, secure mental health units, stroke rehabilitation wards, schools and indeed any establishment where the dog can give unconditional love and be totally non-judgmental. Working alongside a Psychologist, a TDN dog can also help a dog-phobic child.

A very important part of TDN’s work is the ‘Paws to Read’ scheme. For many reasons, some children are often reluctant to read out loud to their peers. These children often respond to a TDN dog who ‘listens’ to them reading. Teachers across the UK have reported that many children have grown in confidence whilst reading to a therapy dog, whilst also exhibiting a marked improvement in their personal development.

For more information visit www.therapydogsnationwide.org.

Vitalin, a food the girls love

Maysie and Jemma eat half Vitalin Salmon and Potato Senior Light and half Duck and Potato or any of the chicken flavours. Floss is underweight so enjoys three feeds a day of Vitalin’s Duck and Potato, whilst she builds up to her healthy weight. Cassie is a very fussy eater and, as such, enjoys tripe mixed with her Vitalin kibble.

If you would like to treat your dog to a food they will love, why not visit our website to see our full range of super premium dog food.

Please be sure to keep an eye on Maysie’s great work over the coming months. She has her own Facebook page, Maysie the therapy dog. The girls also have an Instagram page called fantastic4paw.