Essex Therapy Dogs – First Anniversary

Essex Therapy Dogs – First Anniversary

Essex Therapy Dogs sprang into life just a year ago on the 21st November 2021

The brainchild of Founder and Chair, Tina Jullings, the not-for-profit organisation currently has nearly 150 members (with 139 dogs), and the numbers continue to grow.

Essex Therapy Dogs was launched by a handful of passionate members who believe that therapy dogs can bring significant mental and physical benefits to all age groups, from all backgrounds to a range of emotionally challenging situations and environments.

The simplicity is that the dogs bring comfort, help, and support to people who need it and the staff enjoy our visits too

What are the benefits of dog therapy for mental & physical wellbeing?

There is considerable research that shows dogs can help people feel calmer; provide comfort and soothe emotions; reduce boredom; lower anxiety levels; decrease agitation in people experiencing dementia; reduce loneliness; bridge communication gaps (everyone loves talking to their pets); as well as decreasing the feelings of depression.

The research also outlines many benefits for physical health. Petting a dog can help people to physically relax; it stabilises blood pressure; it can also reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Stroking a dog can also help improve cardiovascular health, slowing the breathing of people who may be anxious, and diminishing physical pain, which may also reduce the need for painkillers. Dogs can also help people release many mood-boosting hormones and decrease the harmful stress hormone, cortisol.

Where do the dogs do their good work?

The dogs visit establishments all over Essex, from Braintree to Basildon, Harwich to Harlow which includes care homes, day centres, dementia day centres, schools, Southend Airport, brain injury units, secure mental health units, hospitals, hospices, and libraries.

They also provide 1:1 support for people who wish to meet up for a dog walk as well as (under certain circumstances) visiting people in their home.

The dogs have helped students with their transition to starting university, as well as those experiencing pre and post exam nerves and providing on-going support whilst they are away from home and missing their own pets.

Schools use the dogs to provide emotional support for some of their pupils and they are also used to help children become more confident when reading.

The dogs also go into Southend Airport to help the frayed nerves of anxious passengers. The idea is to help reduce anxiety and stress levels for flyers before boarding a flight. The time spent with the dog in the airport lounge helps to keep these passengers distracted by stroking and cuddling the dog.

The dogs are often invited to join passengers on their flight! – but sadly, this isn’t possible although their owners are sometimes very tempted especially when its cold and wet outside.

Who are the Essex Therapy Dogs Team?

The Essex Therapy Dogs team are a passionate group of people who voluntarily give their time to make everything work. Founder, Tina Jullings, leads the team, with Lorraine Joy as the membership secretary. Claire Taylor is the treasurer; Cathy Adams is the social media expert, Mandy Johnson is the team secretary and our latest member Pauline Coverley as our events coordinator. None of us are paid a salary and we dedicate our time to these roles free of charge as its something we all believe in and are very passionate about.

The group also have area co-ordinations in Colchester, Braintree, Southend, and Chelmsford who meet up with prospective new members to assess their dogs. There are also monthly dog walks in these areas as well.

Thinking of joining – what makes a good therapy dog?

Dogs are assessed on their temperament and ability to walk nicely on the lead, not jump up and take treats gently. The dog should be at least a year old and be of a calm and friendly nature. They should also be fully vaccinated.

Essex Therapy Dogs have dogs of all breeds, there are big and small ones and some are rescues. There are pure, mixed, and designer breeds. They just need to be calm and be able to cope with lots of fuss.

What does becoming a member of the Essex Therapy Dogs team involve, and how much does it cost?

Members should ideally be available to visit an establishment for an hour each week (this can be flexible). There is a membership fee of £20 a year for one dog / one owner, or £25 for more than one dog / owner. This is to cover our admin and insurance costs.

Members will receive a membership pack which includes £5m public liability insurance, an ID badge, sew-on badge, and a kerchief for their dog.

There is also an online shop where members can purchase polo shirts, bags, and jackets at reasonable prices.

Where can I find out more?

If you are interested in finding out more, either to join or request a dog visit, or a talk about what we do please complete the form on the Essex Therapy Dogs website at www.essextherapydogs.co.uk

Essex Therapy Dogs can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

If you have a dog who you think is suitable and have a little free time, why not get in touch.

Jamie Langstone
JLangstone@savs-southend.co.uk