DOG lover Adrian Ashworth noticed one of his huskies was behaving differently with his father around the time he was diagnosed with dementia.
The behaviour was so noticeable and the comfort it gave to his dad sparked an idea.
Adrian went on to set up Therapy Huskies which is made up of four Siberian huskies which are specifically trained to help with end of life, autism, bereavement and more.
One the huskies, Thunder, had started to spend a lot of time with his dad Alan, 87, and following him around. Not long after this started, Alan was diagnosed with dementia.
The four pooches - Stormy, Thunder, Thor and Binny-Boo - now travel across Barnsley and the UK to care homes, community groups, hospices and other venues to give support and affection.
The organisation is run on funds from people they visit but they also do free trips to hospices and other locations for end of life support, so Adrian and the dogs do rely on public funding to help Therapy Dogs keep going.
“It’s something we do that we don’t really publicise too much because it isn’t always a happy ending,” said Adrian, of Pogmoor.“Sometimes the people we visit die and that’s not nice but the huskies may have brought them some comfort.
“Some of the people we visit can’t pay but we go anyway because we want them to have something nice and to bring them a bit of happiness. We currently do this ourselves which is one of the reasons Claire works full time.
"We used up our savings last year and with no funding or support we have had to cut back some of the private visits as it was just uneconomical, something we have hated having to do. Saying ‘sorry, no’ when we know how helpful the dogs are is just heart breaking.”
“We started working with BIADS in Barnsley and started bringing the dogs to sessions there. The people there loved having the huskies and they are different with people with dementia. They ease anxiety and worry. From there we starting working with other people and other causes.
“It’s nice to do things like this and one of the dogs does end of life support. They are so well behaved and we can’t go anywhere without people stopping us.”
The organisation was also given £850 last week to help fund the end of life work Adrian and dog Thunder provide. The money was given to them by Barnsley girl Jess Tighe and friends, after she booked the huskies to give a talk at the University of Huddersfield.
Afterwards, she and her friends, who all attended Barnsley College, raised money through asking for raffle prizes from local businesses and selling raffle tickets. They also took a charity bucket pubs and to work to raise additional funds - raising £850 in total.
“It was a great day when we went to give a talk at Jess’ university class on the dogs, everyone loved that. It was really nice of her and her friends to do this for us.”
For more information about Therapy Huskies, visit therapyhuskies.co.uk.