How huskies are “touching the hearts” of dementia sufferers

Claire Day with specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees
Claire Day with specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees
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A FAMILY of specially trained woolly huskies who show empathy to those around them are being used to help people with dementia, terminal illness, and long-term health conditions across Yorkshire and beyond.

Barnsley-based Dementia Dogs was founded by husky owner Adrian Ashworth and his partner Claire Day, who say the dogs have “touched the hearts” of hundreds of people since they began taking them into care home and day centres last year.

Adrian Ashworth and his specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees

Adrian Ashworth and his specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees

The dogs, Stormy, Thunder, Thor and Binny Boo, are also used with people suffering from loneliness, and people living with autism, cancer and mental health conditions.

Mr Ashworth, who has trained dogs for 30 years, said he was moved to start using the dogs in this way after seeing how Thunder responded to his father when he was in the early days of a dementia diagnosis.

“He seemed to pick up on Dad’s dementia, and would be react when he came into the room, standing by his feet,” he said. Since then, Thunder and the other dogs have been specially trained to react calmly around the people they meet.

“It’s not just about obedience,” Mr Ashworth said. “They are intuitive and pick up on the people around them.

Specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees

Specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees

“Older people who meet the dogs might not have connected with a dog in many years, and that connection seems to mean the world to them. With people with dementia, being with the dogs can take them back to their childhood memories - and because they look like big teddy bears, there is no fear there.”

For more on the Yorkshire Post’s loneliness campaign, click here.

Adrian Ashworth and his specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees

Adrian Ashworth and his specially trained 'dementia dogs' at Barnsley Day Centre's dementia group.Picture Scott Merrylees