Special dog brings smiles to hospital patients in mental health unit

Every Friday, we bring you inspirational and uplifting animal stories that highlight the heartwarming relationship between pets and their people, as part of the Mirror’s Pet Club. And this week, we’re meeting Minnie the adorable miniature Shih Tzu who helps hospital patients with their mental health.

We all know how spending time with our pets boosts our wellbeing, so being on a ward away from your furry friend can be especially hard. That’s why a hospital in Blackpool has recruited its latest – and cutest – volunteer, in the hope she will bring a smile to patients missing their own pooches.

Minnie visits patients at The Harbour, an inpatient mental health unit in Blackpool run by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust.

She trots around the wards as part of the newly launched #WoofWednesday initiative where she meets people to help them relieve feelings of depression and encourage them to talk and take part in activities.

And it’s not just patients who are missing their own pets – everyone gets a boost when Minnie turns up for her shift.

Her owner Lisa Whittle is a Health and Wellbeing Occupational Health Assistant and has been working with her pooch to get her specially trained and qualified for her new role.

Lisa said: “Minnie is the most amazing dog. I have Minnie’s mum as well and as soon as Minnie was born I knew there was something special about her and that she would make the perfect therapy dog.

“We’ve worked together so that she could pass her Pets Therapy Assessment – which she did with flying colours. Now we get to work together every Wednesday which is incredible.

“Animals have been found to bring a sense of homeliness and normality to people who are hospitalised and Minnie is already having a fantastic impact.”

Wagony Aunt

My puppy gets really excited if someone knocks on the door or rings the bell. How can we get her to stay calm?

Feelings of excitement or anxiety can start for a puppy the moment they hear these noises, so it’s important to teach her to remain calm whenever she hears them.

First, get her used to the sounds in a positive way. Quietly knock on a hard surface. If she barks or rushes to the door, make the knock quieter. The aim is for her to stay calm.

Gradually increase the volume and frequency until she is ignoring reasonably loud knocks. Repeat the process with the noise of a doorbell, perhaps using a doorbell sound on your phone so you can reduce the volume.

Once she has mastered this, stay with her and ask someone to knock quietly on the front door once. Give her a treat if she stays calm. Gradually increase the number and volume of the knocks.

Then, repeat the process with your doorbell. The noise will eventually become meaningless as it isn’t resulting in anyone coming in.

You could offer her an enjoyable activity such as a food-releasing toy or snuffle mat to encourage her to settle and remain quiet for longer periods.

Cats corners
Cats in a German town will be free to roam for the first time in three months after they were placed under house arrest to protect an endangered bird.

Authorities in Walldorf, south-west Germany, imposed the unique kitty lockdown to stop cats chasing crested larks.

Owners faced a fine of up to £42,000 if their cat killed one of the birds, with just three breeding pairs left in the area.

The restrictions will be lifted from Monday, but the Mayor warned of a fresh lockdown next spring, during the larks’ breeding season.

Five-month-old Hope was rushed to a rescue centre after being found collapsed in a yard in Birmingham.

After five days of intensive nursing she built up enough strength to have a £4,000 operation.

Despite coming within a whisker of dying, Hope went on to make a full recovery and Cats Protection are now looking for her forever home.