Support group welcomes back their canine chums

September 8, 2023

Adults with learning disabilities were overjoyed to welcome back two little furry friends to the weekly group where they receive support and encouragement.

Apollo meets at Selby Community Centre every Thursday from 10am to 3pm and is open to all adults with learning disabilities. It was formed in 2012 and aims to address people’s individual needs in a realistic and flexible way using various activities and informative sessions which will expand personal skill, skills appropriate to employability requirements and life skills development. The members were delighted to welcome back therapy dogs Pixie and Cookie from Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dogs at their last session.

Irene Gregoire, who runs Apollo with Rosemary Thompson, said the dogs visit every six weeks, and have quickly became firm favourites with those who attend. She added: “The visits are the best thing for overcoming a fear of dogs, or animals. We have one lady who was terrified of dogs, but now we can’t keep her away! “It’s about building confidence in the dogs, in other people and how to treat an animal. It also helps people to be calm, and teaches them about sharing as some people with learning disabilities have a problem with sharing. “It’s amazing the real life skills you can achieve by having a couple of dogs in the room. Everyone looks forward to it. But we could do with some more people. At the moment we have got six people on our register, but our maximum is eight or nine.” The Selby branch of the Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dogs is run by sisters Julie and Sue Farley. It has been active since 2019, but is a small group of members which gets more requests to go to care homes than it can spread out to cover. The charity helps tackle loneliness, and people suffering from mental and physical health conditions. The dogs can visit hospitals, care homes, nursing homes, libraries and schools. All the dogs are family pets. There is a one and a half hour assessment for the dog and handler by a qualified dog trainer and membership to the PAT charity group. The only thing it costs is time volunteering. Julie said: “When you go into care homes or hospitals and you put a dog there and you can just see people light up.” Sue added: “We’ve been to Beavers and Scout groups, and one group were doing something about superheroes and they said the dogs, because of what they do in the community, were superheroes. “Pixie even helped one get invested and presented them with their neckerchief.”

The Selby branch of PAT Dogs has a new committee following the Covid-19 pandemic, and is hoping to get some new members. It meets up every two months for a coffee and a catch up, and members support each other if there are any problems or issues. If you have a friendly, well behaved dog, who loves meeting people contact Julie by e-mail: (31-08-20 ST)

Share this article