A parrot who wasn’t shy of using the F-word and a cat with a sixth sense for when someone was close to the end of their life are just a couple of the pets I remember living with people at Huntington House over the years. Sadly, we couldn’t keep the parrot (I couldn’t understand why at the time – I must have been about six years old and didn’t understand the swearing), but I believe it is still behind the scenes at Birdworld to this day.
So, Shelley, the friendliest Bearded Collie you’ve ever met, is an absolute delight to look after in Langham Court. Since Langham Court opened in 2013, we’ve had a couple of resident cats, but Shelley is the first dog and is already making friends with Basil, the hairdresser’s sausage dog (who incidentally used to belong to someone living in Huntington House).
Shelley was subject to a pre-admission assessment and is currently on her probation period to ensure she settles in and gets on with everyone, but so far, so good! If she isn’t found lying in the lounge next to the fire (not a real one – but she doesn’t have to know that), she’ll be out walking around the grounds with her owner, Carol, or any one of the staff who all but queue up to take her out.
When I first met Shelley and Carol, we ended up chatting about my own dog, a six-year-old black Labrador, Poppy, who is still so excitable she often gets confused for being a puppy. Carol said I should bring her in to meet Shelley. I told her that the last time I tried that, within the first 30 seconds of being in the building, she wrapped herself around the cable to the computer monitor on the reception desk and nearly destroyed the place. Maybe in a couple more years, she said. I thought even that sounded optimistic, but I agreed, in principle.
Like with every aspect of life in a care home, risk assessments and common sense need to be exercised at all times, and we were a tad concerned when a recent enquirer had a pet pig that lived in the house (and then a bit disappointed to learn that it belongs to another family member and wouldn’t be moving in after all), but we have never had a blanket ‘no pets’ policy like many care homes do.
There has long been an understanding of the benefits of pets to people’s wellbeing and the sense of purpose it brings to be able to continue to look after pets when perhaps you are unable to look after yourself or have lost elements of your own independence, but these benefits are often not considered to outweigh the risks, such as infections, allergies, and trips/falls.
However, our model of care is based on the understanding that ‘Feelings matter most’ and that a positive risk taking philosophy can minimise risks while also ensuring that people can retain aspects of their life that are important to them, even when they have to move into a care home – it’s care without compromise.