Lady in garden with therapy dogJoan, aged 90, had become desperately isolated and lonely following a recent fall. Joan lives in her own sheltered housing apartment and although there are other residents in the housing block she hasn’t seen anyone since her fall.

Joan has lost all her confidence and become very anxious when thinking about going out. She doesn’t have any family or friends living nearby who can support her and she is increasingly becoming very withdrawn and depressed.

A health professional contacted Wellbeing Exeter to ask the team if they could by any miracle find a therapy dog to support Joan. Joan had always been active and owned dogs and loved being around them. Joan had also talked about trying to get out and help at a dog kennels, but at 90, with her decreased mobility, it was felt this might not be the safest option. It was hoped if a therapy dog could be found it would be great company for Joan and in time would hopefully give her the confidence to get out walking again.

As luck would have it the team knew Lynne, a volunteer with a fully training therapy dog called Sally, and who had been waiting for an opportunity to come along.

Lynne said:

"This is what we’ve been waiting for, we really want to share the happiness Sally can bring to someone in need".

A meeting was arranged at Joan’s apartment so that Lynne could introduce Sally to Joan.

Lynne said:

"Joan and Sally lit up when they met, Sally was very excited and settled very comfortably in Joan’s apartment. Joan was so happy to see Sally, her confidence increased, and grabbing her walking stick she asked if she could take Sally for a walk around the gardens, it was incredible".

As Joan walked through the building she bumped into other residents who stopped to talk and fuss over Sally; on the short walk to the garden so many other residents benefitted from the joy a dog can bring.

Lynne talked to Joan about setting realistic goals, thinking about how Sally could support with her recuperation. These included going outside with Lynne and Sally at first, but leading on to Lynne staying back to enable Joan to be more independent. Through the walks it is hoped that Joan’s confidence, strength and mobility will increase and over time she’ll be able to head out to other places with Sally.

Joan met with her GP for a check up on her recuperation and talked about Sally and the support she’s received from Lynne.

Wellbeing Exeter Community Connector said:

"This has been such a positive match, such a simple thing that has made such a big difference".