Perks of the job

Over Christmas I unfortunately had to visit my 88 year old Mama (Nottinghamshire slang for Grandma – not a posh word for Mum) in hospital as she fell and fractured her hip and therefore needed an operation.

This caused me to reflect on my own job as I saw staff at the hospital go about their day to day work. I can’t say many of them looked filled with joy. And neither would I if I were effectively locked in a ward for 12 hours, with no natural light. They were doing their very best with the circumstances they were working in, and we can’t fault the care she received, but each time I visited, I left feeling a sense of relief I was not working in a setting like this.

I’ve been working as an Occupational Therapist for St George’s Crypt since April 2016, so 9 months now. This is a charity which supports people who are homeless and vulnerable. As my 1 year contract reaches the end (it is to be reviewed and the funders confirm if it will be continued); I feel a sense of dread considering where my options would lie in terms of my Occupational Therapy career and cannot help but wonder if actually I may be better off following my other dream of starting a dog walking business or training assistance dogs.

This is my first time working for a charity and I cannot tell you how good it has been. Staff seem happy to be there (or they’re very good actors!), and there’s a real team spirit. They take time out each morning to pray as it is a Christian charity, but religion aside this is a fantastic way of checking in with colleagues to see how they are in general and to feel more equipped to support each other throughout the working week. This informal support is vital given the amount of heart breaking information we hear from the people who are living it first hand on a daily basis.

I feel valued as a person here and I love that everyone in the building is valued too. Everyone has a name, and everyone has an identity which is something many people who access the service feel they have lost through the depersonalising circumstances that go in hand with homelessness. This is worlds apart from when I did a shift at a general hospital a few years ago when working for an agency as a career and was asked to wash bed 7. Does the bed have a pulse and a personality? I had asked the staff doing the handover. I didn’t return to that place to work.

There is opportunity to be human, and to allow people to feel human too. Prior to my current job, in a different temporary role, I had sat down with a patient to eat breakfast as a way of building rapport with someone who was difficult to engage after experiencing a life changing time in terms of disability to be told ‘if you’re going to eat that toast it will be 40p’ by a staff member. In my current role no one questions when I sit and drink tea, or eat toast with a resident. The power of tea/ toast is a wonderful thing, and if acting human, and offering a kind gesture like a cup of tea or company over breakfast creates a pathway in to a therapeutic relationship then it’s a tool I’ll keep using.

We’re lucky to have a beautiful garden, tended to by generous volunteers who began their journey at the Crypt as residents and it’s a nice place to sit to gather thoughts after a difficult conversation or a busy morning to re build strength to go back out and keep on working. Similarly the chapel which I can only liken to the nicest cave I’ve ever seen is a perfect place to reflect. People don’t question the 5 minutes out, there’s a common respect that we’re all only human and sometimes just need that time out to recuperate. I think it makes us all work harder in many ways as feeling respected makes us respect the organisation.

My wellbeing is met daily through my job. I am active and get to support people to do the occupations that are meaningful to them; it is not uncommon to see me walking, climbing, playing golf, or wood-turning whilst at work. I practice mindful listening as each person I am fortunate enough to work with grasps my full attention and this allows me to switch off from my own worries and fully embrace the working day. I feel working here gives me a great chance to connect with such a variety of people. The social area is buzzing each lunch time and whilst I am working and offering support to clients it feels more of a homely environment because for many people who visit, these are the only connections they have got. I feel I am contributing my time to a group of people who deserve much more, and who have been let down time and time again by the healthcare system. And I am learning so much! This jobs gives me a rotation type experience as I am meeting people with many different interests, from all walks of life, who have experienced many different circumstances impacting on their ability to do the occupations that are important to them.

I am fortunate I know. I will certainly be mindful as my career progresses to ensure I am in a job that is helpful to my own well being, but most of all is in line with my values, and my moral compass.

Rebecca Wint, Occupational Therapist.

 

The power of us 4 legged friends

Whilst enjoying our Sunday morning walk, me and my housemate came across a man walking with 2 elbow crutches with a lad I can only describe as my twin – handsome, 4 legs, luscious black coat  – in our favourite park. Me and ‘twinny’ dashed around like loons for a few minutes whilst my housemate talked the hind legs off my new pals housemate.

I never look like I’m paying attention but unlike blokes of the 2 legged variety I can actually multi-task. So turns out my pal was also dumped at the side of a road but he was much younger – only 8 weeks old when he was found by his housemate.

His housemate went on to tell mine that 2 weeks previous to finding ‘the pup’ he’d been given an ultimatum by medical specialists: get walking, or lose your legs. He’d apparently racked his brains as to how he could ever make this happen as at the time he’d been howling in pain and had lost all motivation, almost resigning to the fact he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He’d asked his specialist how?: to which they’d been blunt and said ‘find a way’.

Then in the nick of time, my pal (who I’m now learning is a bit too boisterous for a lazy mutt like me) with his irresistible puppy dog eyes had sat abandoned at the roadside and this poor man in crisis had spotted him as he drove past. He picked him up and the rest is history. From that day he walked, he had to, us dogs don’t need advising 30 minutes exercise, 5 days a week is good for us – we’d walk 30 miles if only we could motivate the 2 legged variety a little more. So this man went on to compliment my pal a bit like my housemate does me. He mentioned how he’d given him a lease of life, motivated him when he had nothing left, and he believes it’s a miracle they found each other.

 

Now I don’t mean to be bragging here but my housemate is pretty similar, but it’s not her legs that are fragile, it’s her mind – not that she’d admit it. I made a similar appearance to my pal, 7 years ago tomorrow actually, and me and my housemate have been by each others sides ever since. She found me at the side of a road. I’d suffered concussion so to this day we’ve not figured out how I got there but apparently they think I was dumped. I prefer my version; I was on a gap year travelling the UK and I’d taken a minute to rest after fighting off a polar bear in the winter snow.

She kindly put me up for a couple of nights whilst we waited for my old owner to feel guilty and come back for me but turns out they never did. So because I wasn’t micro-chipped, I was full of worms, and I didn’t get on very well with the lead (I was a free spirit previously), she took pity on me and got me ‘trained up’. I’d just had a rough start and needed some gentle guidance. It worked out well. Every time I learned a new trick e.g. sit/ lie down/ play dead, I got a treat. Not the cheese I’d hoped for but I suppose the dog chocolates weren’t bad. Once I was trained I made a career for myself and even managed to bag my housemate a few interesting jobs too.

So it turned out I needed her that day she found me in the cold January frost but I don’t think she’d mind me letting on that she’s needed me equally as much since we became such good friends.  There have been days when she’s been difficult to motivate to say the least. I’ve heard other humans plead with her that things aren’t that bad, things will get better, that she should get out of bed or off the sofa. For some reason when she’s this way out the only thing that will motivate her is me. I’m taking full credit for this one. I play the sympathy card when she’s down in the dumps and look at her and whine just to remind her there is a reason to get up and that she can be useful even when she thinks she’s no use to anyone. Whilst she starts off like a sloth, whenever I convince her to have a walk the dark cloud seems to lift slightly and the spring returns to her step gradually. Being responsible for me makes her realise she is important. Without her I couldn’t survive, and she tells me she’d struggle without me too. So it is true what they say. Us dog’s really are a (wo)mans best friend.

Jed (PAT dog and Rebecca Wint’s housemate)

A Dog’s Life

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

—Roger Caras

Hello. My name is Jed and I’m a registered PAT dog. PAT means Pets as Therapy. I’ve been in this line of work for the past 4 years now. My work has been varied. Work with women, visiting care homes for older people (my oldest ever client being 90) and currently a service for people who are homeless. Aside from this I am a popular member of my local community and often evoke discussion amongst the locals due to my mischievous behaviour –  I tend to borrow food and not return it.

 

I thoroughly enjoy my current job. My latest shift has just finished and before taking a sleep I thought I would offer a reflection on the a day in the life of a PAT dog.

 

6am: Early start! My eyes open and my house mate who’s an Occupational Therapist wakes me with breakfast. We then have a gentle stroll round the block. I like the park – so peaceful, lots of trees and sometimes other dogs. It helps me clear my mind for the busy day ahead. I understand some wise humans talk walks, enjoy nature and do things that help clear their minds in the morning too.

 

7am: Nice chill out time in the car. Just got time to power nap and feel super refreshed for whatever the day might throw my way. Power napping is cool.

 

8am: Ahh, we’ve arrived, I’m always so happy to hear the word ‘work’ and have a spring in my step as I leave the car ( I understand many humans don’t have this experience). I’m met at the door by staff and service users at the homeless centre. I hear them say it’s nice to see a dog around the place and they pay me lots of compliments about how affectionate and loving I am. It makes me feel good. Maybe I am a real people dog. They say I bring a sense of calm to the place which helps combat stress.

 

9am: We’re working at a Christian charity at the moment and I’m most welcome in the chapel. I find it relaxing to listen to the prayers and this often ends with loads more attention from staff who attend – they just can’t get enough of me. The sense in the chapel is very calm and we think about the people we are going to work with. This calm and peace is a good way to start a day. Whether we are religious or not, having a peaceful space for staff to meet and start the day really works well.

 

9.30am: Bit of a chill out time in the office while my housemate gets her act together and gathers information she needs for various ventures throughout our day. These moments of chilling out help a lot.

 

10am: I met a person who’s not feeling so good today. They’re having a really rough time by the sounds of it. Luckily for me this mean’s I get my back tickled the whole way through the discussion between them and my housemate. I think they probably find it as soothing having me by their side as I do them. Conversation just seems to flow when I’m around. I can see in their face that they haven’t had an easy life. I can also sense in their words and intonations that they are looking to the future – trying to build a better life. It’s very touching to my old canine heart to see this. It shows me that hope helps, change is possible and that we can all play a part.

 

11am: Its getting busy here – more and more people arriving at the day centre. I avoid the dining room as I just can’t resist the temptation of the tasty 3 course meal that’s served and the bread and other snacks that’s left out for people to take. I meet and greet people at the door. This attention is just great! Apparently people like to see a dog around the place. People reminisce that they had a dog just like me in the past and start to plan for what they might like in the future – apparently a companion like me would be perfect – this is doing wonders for my confidence! It feels good to be accepted and I wonder if that is what the centre is really all about – it accepts people as they are and tries to support them.

 

11.30am: It’s pretty hot outside today so we moved to a side room where people can call in to say hello as they pass. As people fuss me this seems to lead to all sorts of discussions with my house mate. One person mentioned they loved walking like us but their feet are so sore right now because their socks are worn out – luckily there’s a well-stocked cupboard of clothes here so a few well cushioned pairs were provided for the road. Again I see pain and hope in people’s faces and stories. I get a cuddle. I know not everybody likes cuddles but here they seem to help people.

 

12.30: Nap time – got to admit I love it. I snore loudly in our office to make sure I keep my colleagues awake after our lunch so they can get their work done. I’d prefer they didn’t type so loudly.

 

2pm: One last visit before we go home. I’m meeting a few people on a regular basis. They find it soothing and motivating when I’m around apparently. We go a walk together around the outside of the building – people really seem to like to walk and talk. They mention how this is a nice part of their routine too – and apparently it makes them feel responsible having me to walk. I think I’m a pretty independent chap but they’re keen I’m on a lead. I suppose I don’t know this area of town that well yet. Its good spending all this time with people. Many have had hard lives and this is all about people having a second, third, many chances at a life and a future.

 

3.30pm: One little breather in the office before home. All in all it’s been a good day. I’ve been fussed. I’ve had my back scratched and my belly rubbed. And I’ve met lots of interesting people who seem to appreciate my presence and work. I think I’ll stick to this line of work for a while. If I can make a difference to others and get a few treats along the way that sounds good.  It seems us 4-legged folk are an important part of people’s lives. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Anyway it’s time for another nap – go well and look after each other

 

JED ( with help from Rebecca Wint and John Walsh )