CHILDREN at a Scottish hospital were left overjoyed this week after meeting a wheelchair-bound therapy dog who has travelled over from America.
Seven-year-old Tori the terrier, from Michigan, officially became a ‘therapet’ in 2011 after she was fitted with her very own doggy wheelchair.
When she was just three years old, a rare disease caused two discs in her back to slip and despite extensive surgery, she was left with paralysed back legs.
But that hasn’t stopped her from making a difference and she now regularly visits hospitals, schools and care homes, providing much needed stress relief for patients, and on Thursday she visited Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children.
Visits from Therapets have been proven to benefit patients including by distracting them from their illnesses, relieving stress and having a calming effect on those involved.
And youngsters at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children were ecstatic to meet the dog when she arrived with owner Jana Nicol.
Even wheelchair-bound Oliver Constant got a chance to stroke the dog, bringing an emotional smile to the nine-year-old’s face.
Jana, 50, said: “When people meet Tori it kind of gives them hope that they can overcome any challenges they’re facing. She’s really an inspiration to a lot of people.
“With her determination and she really overcame the odds and has even got some of the movement back in her legs.”
Tori came from a shelter in Texas when she was just six months old after being found as a stary.
But a rare spine disease meant the mixed terrier’s spine soon started to deteriorate and two discs slipped in 2009 and again in 2010.
But after donning her specially designed wheelchair, Tori has fought against the odds and although she struggles with hills and slopes, she’s still committed to helping others.
Jana said: “She’s such a gentle little dog and loves exploring. Everyone absolutely loves her and she really helps them.
“She just makes people feel better about themselves and helps them overcome all kinds of things.”
Tori gives a vital message to children that are sick or disabled and lets them know that “if you put your mind to it, you can overcome almost everything.”
NHS Lothian was the first health board in Scotland to adopt the Therapets initiative in 2006.
The animal therapy programme, run by Canine Concern Scotland Trust, involves volunteers bringing in animals to visit patients on site and helps distract and decrease the stress of it’s users.