For the past two-and-a-half-years, Rossi the golden retriever has been putting smiles on the faces of children, parents and staff by volunteering as a therapy dog at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
In celebration of National Pet Month this April, we joined Rossi and her human, Karen, for a day to find out more about what it takes to be a therapy dog at GOSH.
A day in the life
At 7:30am every Tuesday, Rossi leaves her house in Nottinghamshire and makes her way to the train station. She jumps on a train and settles down for the one-and-a-half-hour journey to London – if she’s really lucky, the conductor on the train will give her a sausage to eat en route.
“We decided to start volunteering when I met a therapy dog just like Rossi at Crufts,” explains Karen. “I had to get Rossi signed off by our vet, but otherwise she hasn’t really needed any training – she’s a natural!”
By 10am, Rossi and Karen have arrived at GOSH and are ready to start their day. From the moment they walk into reception, children, parents and staff stop to say hello.
Karen is handed a list of their wards for the day, and off they go. For the next three hours, Rossi and Karen visit different wards, seeing old friends and new. “We’ve met lots of people during our two-and-a-half years' volunteering,” says Karen. “I often see the same children and it’s always so nice.
“There’s one little boy we know who really misses his dog from home, so we always make the effort to go and see him. It’s a shame the children are here, but they’re in the right place – and if we can cheer them up and help them get back on their feet, then we feel great.”
Alongside all the children she visits, Rossi also brightens up the days of staff members around the hospital. Kate, a teacher at the Children's Hospital School, said: “As much as the children love it, it’s also lovely for all of us adults to see a dog around the place. It can be a tough job and seeing a dog always cheers you up!”
Three hours later, Rossi says goodbye to her GOSH friends and heads back to the station. “There’s not enough time,” says Karen. “We would come five days a week if we could! We never have a bad time coming and I always go home on a high. If we can make just one friend a week, it makes me feel great.”
Rossi and Karen then make their way back home to Nottinghamshire, where Karen’s other dog, Barry, is waiting for them.
“Rossi loves coming to GOSH. She loves the attention, and every time we’ve come she’s had her photograph taken – she’s definitely a poser! Everybody loves her. I think if we can just make one happy face per visit, then that’s a job well done.”