Blast from the past: four decades of visits from Bernese Mountain dogs

Since 1985, Leslie has been bringing his Bernese Mountain dogs to the hospice. The friendly giants have been ever present, from the early days of the children’s day centre to the development of our Centre for Awareness and Response to End of Life (CARE).

One of them, Dusty, even featured in our Oral History Project with this photo from many years ago where he was pulling children in a cart. While he’s no longer with us, Leslie’s fifth Bernese Mountain dog, also called Dusty, continues the work of his namesake.

Therapy Dog 1980s
The original Dusty pulling children in a cart at the hospice in the 1980s

The therapy dog visits the hospice once a week and particularly enjoys venturing up to the wards, spreading joy along the way.

“It’s heartwarming to see people smile, even when they are unwell,” says Leslie. “Dusty’s greetings never fail to bring a smile to their faces.”

Therapy Dog 2023
Leslie and Dusty at the hospice in 2023

Leslie originally got Dusty [1] as a puppy for his late wife, who received care from St Christopher’s. “The hospice truly lifted her spirits,” reflects Leslie.

Therapy dogs like Dusty play a vital role in providing emotional support and enhancing the wellbeing of those they visit. Their presence helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

We’re delighted to welcome them when we can!

:::: This story was from our Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Connect magazine. To read the full magazine, or to sign up to receive future editions, please click here. To find out more about our The Voices That Shaped Us oral history exhibition, click here.

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