Max melting hearts
A DOG has been “melting the hearts” of psychiatric patients while improving their mental health.
Max, an eight-year old Samoyed from Siberia, and his owner Paul Alexander, make weekly visits to the 40-bed Hergest mental health at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, to cheer up patients.
The retired businessman from Anglesey volunteers his time under a scheme run by the Therapy Dogs Nationwide charity. Visits have been praised by staff for lifting patients’ mood, self-esteem and willingness to engage with others.
Catrin Roberts, activity nurse, said: “It has been quite incredible to see the development in our patients’ mental health after a visit from Max.
“Therapy Dog visits can have a huge impact on people with mental health problems, particularly those with anxiety, depression and dementia. There is clear evidence that contact with dogs can lower heart rate, reduce anxiety and improve mood.
“When people come into hospital they can lose a lot of the tactile everyday physical contact with people, so being able to stroke and pet a soft cuddly dog can have a really calming effect on them.
“Patients can also really miss their pets when they are admitted to hospital so when they see Max they can get quite emotional. It gives them a lot of comfort.
“We have some patients who are unwilling to take part in any activities during their first couple of weeks after admission. But when Max is here they will come out of their rooms and start to engage. It’s a really good starting point for patients who may be too anxious to attend other activities.
“The aim is to reduce the sense of isolation that people with mental health problems can feel and encourage them to interact with others, be active and learn new skills.
“We also hope to encourage them to continue with these pursuits once they are discharged so they can continue to look after their mental wellbeing.”
Max and Paul also make regular visits to nine hospital wards at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Cefni, Llangefni, and Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley, Holyhead, and four residential homes in Anglesey.
Mr Alexander said: “It’s hard to decide who Max has a greater effect on – whether it’s patients or staff.
“Hospital staff tell me it’s like seeing a Mexican wave of smiles and joy when Max visits them. Patients tell me that seeing Max is one of their greatest pleasures in hospital.”
Therapy Dog visits are just one of a number of activities and therapies which take place on the Hergest Unit.
Patients are encouraged to take part in art therapy, gardening, craft and games groups, exercise and relaxation classes, Tai Chi and walking groups.
Mr Alexander is encouraging other dog owners to consider becoming part of Therapy Dogs Nationwide.
He said: “We need more volunteers to come forward and help make a difference on places like the Hergest Unit.
“Not only does it keep me busy but it’s extremely rewarding too. It gives me great pleasure to see the smiles on peoples’ faces when they come into contact with Max.” FIRE chiefs have confirmed that a blaze started at a house in Llangefni was the work of arsonists.
Two fire crews tackled the flames engulfing a shed attached to the back of the house in Isgraig.
One crew from Llangefni and one from Menai Bridge dealt with the fire after they were called out at 04.05am on Saturday morning.
The shed sustained 100% fire damage.
Fire fighters used one hose reel jet, two breathing apparatuses and a thermal imaging camera in putting the fire out.
A spokesman for North Wales Fire Service said: “The invetigation has been completed and it is believed to be a deliberate ignition by persons unknown.”