In the first post of 2019, Denise Brereton explains how registering as a Pets as Therapy Volunteer has had a positive effect on her work as a Student Support Adviser at Cardiff Business School.
Meet Winnie. She’s a two year old Shih Tzu cross and although the exact nature of her fine lineage remains a mystery, her owner Kate Daunt, thinks she’s probably part Bichon Frise.
Kate adopted Winnie from Many Tears Animal Rescue in South Wales after the pup’s mum was abandoned at the centre pregnant, to give birth to a still-born male and little Winnie.
Winnie was tiny from the off and now tops the scales at just 4.8 kilos fully grown.
“She is one of the sweetest, most gentle-natured dogs that you’ll ever meet. She loves everyone. Young and old. And really enjoys her Pets as Therapy (PAT) work.”
And this is how we at Cardiff Business School have got to know Winnie.
PAT is a national charity which aims to enhance health and well-being in the community through the visits of trusted volunteers with their behaviourally assessed animals.
They provide a visiting service to all sorts of places across the UK, including: hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and any groups who might benefit from a visit from a furry friend.
Winnie and Kate started working as PAT volunteers in December 2017 after undergoing a temperament assessment and a reference check – I’ll let you work out which was for Winnie and which was for Kate.
Like many PAT volunteers, Winnie started out visiting care homes until Kate suggested that she also help out with my work providing support to students at the Business School.
As you can imagine, I was super keen! I’d long read about the therapeutic benefits of animal visits for those in hospitals or elderly care and for people with learning difficulties or those who have suffered trauma of some kind. I also felt that Winnie and I had a great bond.
So, without further ado, I registered as a certified PAT handler and started Winnie Wednesdays back in October last year.
We’re very lucky in the Business School to have a dedicated Student Support Adviser. It means that I can have a really hands on approach as the first port of call for students who are seeking advice on a range of issues, including: fees and funding, visas, housing, counselling, mental health and well-being or any other issues that students may have.
In the Business School, Winnie enables students to express their fears and feelings in a relaxed, informal environment. Also, seeing me with Winnie can lead to students seeking further advice later on in a more formal setting.
We have been holding ‘Winnie Wednesdays’ since October with Winnie meeting students in the post graduate teaching centre (PTC) during lunchtime. The response has been great with Winnie usually meeting 20 – 30 students each session.
Many students miss their own pets and just want to say hello, have a cuddle or take a photograph.
By having Winnie here on a Wednesday, it’s publicised the fact that we have a dedicated adviser in the School and opened up the service to a whole range of students from Home and EU to International.
Without doubt every student who has met Winnie has given a very positive response, many commenting on how fantastic it is to have Winnie in the office or the PTC and they look forward to seeing her each week.
Lots of students have told me that they feel much happier after meeting Winnie and this is helping with their general well-being. Having Winnie with me has allowed us to break down the barriers that can sometimes stop students from accessing support.
Health and well-being is of course an important element of this. It’s becoming a massive talking point throughout the whole of Higher Education. Good health and well-being is essential because if you’re feeling happy and healthy, you study better. In fact, you do everything better.
If Winnie and I can play a small part in securing that for our students then we’ll be onto a winner (or as Winnie would prefer, a chicken dinner)!
Being at the forefront of this work with Winnie and PAT is brilliant for the Business School and we are proud to be the only School in the University currently undertaking student support work of this kind.
You can meet me and Winnie most Wednesdays in the Postgraduate Teaching Centre Foyer or in the Student Support Office, Room P24, Aberconway Building. Times will be posted on the door.
Denise Brereton is Student Support Adviser at Cardiff Business School.
Kate Daunt is a Professor of Marketing at Cardiff Business School.