Gentle giant in final of national awards

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A gentle giant of a dog who helps hundreds of people in care homes every week has been shortlisted for a top award.

Scrabble, a four-year-old Leonberger from Pannal, is in the final of Therapy Dog of the Year in the Pets as Therapy (PAT) awards.

NADV 1212034AM3 Ann Burrell with her dog Srabble.  Picture : Adrian Murray (1212034AM3)

NADV 1212034AM3 Ann Burrell with her dog Srabble. Picture : Adrian Murray (1212034AM3)

As a therapy dog he visits six care homes and hospices in Harrogate every week, spending time with patients and residents. And owner Ann Burrell says that wherever he goes, he brightens up someone’s day.

“He’s irreplaceable really, he walks in and they all perk up,” she said.

“It’s proven that stroking a dog brings down your blood pressure. It takes people’s minds off their problems for a few minutes.

“Everybody loves him, he’s so patient and hard working.”

Mrs Burrell, 69, has nine dogs, including collies, Labradors, and four giant Leonbergers.

Patients at Saint Michael’s Hospice have named them all, as well as Scrabble there is a Domino, a Puzzle, and a Ludo.

She has been working with Pets as Therapy for eight and a half years and has been taking Scrabble since he came to her as a puppy four years ago.

Together they visit Saint Michael’s Hospice, Larchfield Manor, Belmont Care Home, Station View in Starbeck, Crystal Court in Pannal and Granby Court Extended Care.

“A lot of people in care homes and at Saint Michael’s don’t have their dogs with them any more, they just like spending five minutes with him,” she said. “People tell dogs things they would never tell another person.

“In the care homes he does a lot with dementia patients. It brings them all together, they all start ruminating about their the dogs they’ve had.

“He loves doing it. Well, he’s never said that he doesn’t.”

Scrabble has been shortlisted out of 900 dogs, and residents have until Christmas to back him as winner. The winner will be announced at Crufts. To add your vote, email I vote for Scrabble to win@yours.co.uk.