Therapy dog has a very ‘im-paw-tant’ job at retirement scheme

A Warwickshire retirement scheme has recruited a new member of the team – Bracken the dog – to boost residents’ wellbeing.

Kate Marshall, volunteer for Therapy Dogs Nationwide with her dog Bracken and Tithe Lodge resident Bernard Rawbone

Every month, Bracken visits Tithe Lodge in Southam - an extra care housing development for older people managed by Orbit - as part of a new ‘pet therapy’ session aimed at offering comfort to residents and the opportunity to interact and socialise.

Coral Greenhalgh, Orbit’s Activities Coordinator at Tithe Lodge said: “Obviously the past couple of years have been incredibly challenging for residents. The need to protect vulnerable residents during lockdown meant that our usual activities and visits couldn’t run in the same way, so lots of people felt isolated and are still reluctant in some instances to start socialising again. But Bracken’s visits have given everyone a much-needed boost – the whole atmosphere changes when he is in the building. Residents can’t wait to give him a fuss and have a chat with him and each other, he really is making a positive difference to residents’ lives.”

Tithe Lodge resident Bernard Rawbone commented: “It’s great to have Bracken visiting us and to see the smiles on everyone’s faces when he’s here.”

Bracken is an 8-year-old Cocker Spaniel Cross Labrador from Therapy Dogs Nationwide - a national charity that enlists visiting volunteers to take their own dogs into establishments to provide comfort, distraction, and stimulation.

Research suggests that interactions with therapy dogs can not only boost people’s mood and reduce stress but also help to reduce physical pain.

Kate Marshall, Bracken’s owner who volunteers with Therapy Dogs Nationwide said: “When I retired from teaching I wanted to find a way that I could still make a positive difference to people’s lives. As a dog owner I know the benefit to my own health and wellbeing of having Bracken in my life so I’m really pleased to be able to share this with others – and Bracken really enjoys the extra fuss and attention too.”

Volunteering and employing your dog as a therapy dog is rewarding also for the owner, as well as the recipient, as you can give back to your community and share the love of your dog with others.

For more information about Therapy Dogs Nationwide please visit:

Tithe Lodge offers 75 residents the independence of their own apartment with access to care services and other on-site facilities such as a spa, library and cinema. It is one of 5,000 independent living and supported living properties managed by Orbit across the Midlands, East London and the South East of England providing a home for more than 7,000 people aged over 55.