Today, we’re “hopping across the pond” to the UK to “meet” Doug the Pug Therapy Dog and his mama, Cate! I found Doug on Instagram earlier this year and have been following him ever since. His sweet demeanor and kindness to people are incredibly contagious! I think you’ll fall in love with him, just as I have. 🙂
Introduce yourselves! Tell us who you are and what you do.
Hi, Cate here! Doug’s mama. I previously taught literacy and numeracy to those with learning differences. I also worked on a positive behavior program with children on the autistic spectrum. So life before Doug was the perfect backdrop to the Doug/Cate combo.
Doug is a wonderfully sweet natured little dog — full of benevolent and philanthropic intentions. He is well-meaning, kind, and generous. Through the UK charity, Pets as Therapy, Doug works as a therapy dog and also as a reading dog on their READ2DOGS program. Working only for love and kindness, Doug goes to work willingly and without receiving any financial reward. The truly wonderful thing about this is that anyone can afford us!
In 2016, at The National Pet Show in London, Doug received Professor Noel Fitzpatrick’s Super Dogs Live “Most Heroic Hound” Award for contribution to supporting positive mental health and emotional well-being. Doug is helping us all to recognize that we need to look after our mental health and emotional well-being in order to be physically well.
How long have you been a therapy pup?
Doug and I have been volunteering together through Pets as Therapy for over seven years now. During this time, we have supported many children and adults living with ongoing physical and learning difficulties and emotional and mental challenges.
How did you get started doing therapy work?
Doug started life as an unofficial therapy dog. I had given up work to be a full-time caregiver for a loved family member who was chronically ill for seven long years, and it was thought that the companionship of a small manageable dog might bring comfort, which he did! He helped reduce the awful feelings of loneliness and isolation that often come with long-term chronic illness. Doug was always a comfort.
After my family member’s recovery, I felt Doug still had much love to share. I decided that we should pursue becoming volunteers and was delighted when Doug passed all his assessments!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Our days vary! Doug starts off each day with a good run around the garden with his friend, Molly, before we head to our various places of work.
We read to children
Each week, children read stories to Doug and they gain confidence in speaking out loud while regaining a love of learning in a safe, non-threatening environment. With Doug, children are able to concentrate on their studies, free from concerns that they may be chastised or crushed.
We visit the elderly
We also visit a care home for the elderly one morning each month, and any of Doug’s friends there who find themselves in the hospital will find us calling on them there, too. Doug not only helps the patients but the staff as well! Staff may experience the death of a patient and need to find the strength to support the bereaved family — having a “pug hug” with Doug seems to recharge their souls so that they find the strength to continue their day without feeling too flat. If at any time should any of Doug’s friends pass away — we go to their funerals so that we can say goodbye.
We visit schools and groups
We also visit schools and groups such as Brownies, Guides, and Scouts to give talks about what we do. Visiting schools allows us to help children overcome any fear of school as well. We’ve had two children in particular who have shared their deep fear of school. It’s been incredible to watch Doug walk through their fear with them and help them overcome their insecurities and learn to love school and reading.
We are also often asked to visit with children who have been excluded from school due to their behavioral and emotional challenges. When we encourage our young friends to take ownership of their own behaviors and make choices for themselves, we can help them change the way they operate and work with others.
We visit those in hospice
Each month, we share an afternoon in a hospice for those with life-limiting conditions. As care and treatments improve, many people enjoy a longer life expectancy but are left with consequences of their treatment and medication that is often quite challenging to manage on a day to day basis. We are told that being with Doug allows friends to enjoy the moment and not reflect too much on the past or worry too much about what the future holds.
We visit hostels
Each month, we also visit hostels for vulnerable families between permanent homes. Here, we find that our new transient friends are often quite bereft or scarred by leaving behind all they have ever known.
We visit those with mental health challenges
One afternoon a month we also visit a specialist unit for those with mental health challenges. We love it there. A friend at Mosaic Clubhouse once said that Doug allows her to get out of her own head and escape the ongoing challenges that follow her. We clearly can’t make people’s problems go away, but we’d like to think that we give people a little more strength and resilience to manage their challenges better.
What is the most special moment you’ve had doing therapy work?
There are many, and I could quote you something heartfelt from each and every establishment we have visited.
But I think the moment that has stayed with me most is a 35-year-old man from America who contacted me on social media. He’d been sectioned in a mental health unit for six weeks and was in a very unhappy place. He told me how he’d been frightened and lonely and felt he was a drain on the world. Every day his girlfriend would read a page from Doug’s book. It helped him learn that he was worth something, that he was entitled to be part of this world and to have a happy life and feel valued by others. He said that we helped him understand that it was ok for a grown man to feel scared and lonely, and to share that with those he cared for was not a sign of any weakness. It was also beautifully empowering for him to speak with me and acknowledge that he wasn’t just taking strength and support from his girlfriend, but in allowing himself to open up to her, he was giving her the gift of being the best version of her own self that she could share with him.
Despite having never met us, he was able to embrace Doug’s ethos from the other side of the world and he is still in touch. He recently shared that they had gotten engaged. How wonderful it is for me that he felt that I would want to know that and celebrate in his joy.
If you can leave us with one piece of encouragement, what would you share?
It is often thought that being good and kind to others is purely benevolent and altruistic, but it really is quite wonderful that helping others has been proven to improve health, happiness, and longevity. So, the warmth and kindness we show to others is of enormous benefit to us all and is an example to a future generation of mutually beneficial benevolence.
Where can the DailyBarker community connect with you?
Doug even has a book “Doug the Pug — A Working Dog’s Tale!” Make sure to show Doug and his mama, Cate, some love on their social accounts and pick up a copy of their book here. All the royalties from “Doug the Pug — A Working Dog’s Tale” go directly to Pets As Therapy!