Residents in a mental health supported housing scheme are benefitting from a therapy dog belonging to the scheme manager.

Pathways-Therapy-Dog-#2Ollie has recently come to live with scheme manager Kate Poyser and her son in Bexhill. Kate’s son is autistic and can’t cope with many situations like crowds, queues, loud noisy places and strange smells. This is where Ollie can help.

Ollie has been trained to be autistic aware and he plays therapy games that can help with social skills like eye contact and touch. Ollie can also sense if someone is becoming overwhelmed in a particular situation and interact with them to gain his attention.

Along with this support Ollie can wake Kate in the night if her son starts to wander, stop him from running off when they are out and about and helped with road safety as he has been trained to sit at the kerb and wait for a command to cross.

Kate thought that the residents of Pathways, a specialist mental health scheme in Bexhill, may also benefit from Ollie’s presence, both for some exercise and the additional support that his specialist training can provide.

So, Pathways have now started a walking group for the residents. Customers had previously said they wanted a dog to walk and it was agreed Kate could bring Ollie to work to walk with the residents.

The group recently walked along the beach at Bexhill; they really enjoyed throwing the ball for Ollie and walking him on the lead. A few residents were catching Pokemon but the others were happy to interact with several members of the public who wanted to ask questions about the dog.

The residents also regularly come in to the office to interact with Ollie, including one resident who normally isolates himself; so this has all resulted in have several happy residents and one tired dog!

Kate is enormously grateful for the support that she has had from the local community to raise money for Ollie:

Many local businesses fundraised towards paying for him including Jenny Fuller who works at STEPS whose fitness Group Commando Fitness ran the Hastings Half Marathon and gained sponsorship. I am so grateful that so many Family Mosaic staff sponsored Jenny and therefore supported the purchase of Ollie.

But the most beneficial thing is my son is encouraged to have contact with people. When we are walking everyone wants to ask questions and speak to us; my son actually likes telling people about Ollie so it is improving all of his social skills. He also now has his very first friend ever, a little boy in our neighbourhood who likes walking the dog with us; it’s amazing the things animals can do!