Vogue Dog

Dog, through use of his paws, as energised by mind and will, can influence the state of many people’s health (adapted from Mary Reilly)

A PAT dog’s perspective on their link to meaningful occupation.

 

So last week I fell upon an opportunity I could not miss: to be involved in a photo shoot! Since my recent appearance in the OT magazine these sorts of opportunities seem to be falling at my paws.

One person I’ve been working with regularly really struggles to regulate their emotions and conversation between them and my housemate led to discussion around occupations that reduce stress and help them feel more relaxed. The person mentioned how they used to love photography and how they like it because it doesn’t involve having to speak – something they find a bit difficult right now.

So then somehow I got roped into this. Admitted, I am a fairly handsome chap but this is the first time my good looks have seemed so appreciated. I didn’t get a lot of say in the agreement but it was an excuse to lounge around the lovely garden of the centre for people who are homeless that I’m working at, so I happily trotted along.

So there we were: me, the lovely person who seems to have taken a shine to me, and a camera. I really played up to it. I had a lie by the lovely flower beds which are tended to by a person in recovery at one of the centres hostels, then I strutted my stuff on the steps.

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It was so peaceful and a really sunny day which made my lovely coat look even more shiny. It was a real dog walk as I modeled my red collar on the paths. We were both very mindful during the shoot, nothing else seemed to matter.

The photographer seemed so calm throughout and spoke really calmly to my housemate and me. I think it helped when my housemate mentioned to them I don’t like loud voices as this can put my fur on edge. They mentioned how much they’d enjoyed the shoot and how they’d found it a good way to chill out during what sounds like a challenging time for them. They seemed really proud of their work and when we came back into the centre they were showing staff here pictures of me they’d taken – we got many compliments; the photographer on their skills, and me on my modelling.

It seems the next plan is for my gorgeous snout to be plastered all over a scrap book the photographer is making – a book full of things they can look at that makes them feel calm at times when things aren’t so good. They’re wanting to personalise their house a little bit too as apparently it’s a difficult place to settle. It’s been agreed they can have a framed photograph of me posing with them to take home.

I’m so vogue.

Jed (with help from Rebecca Wint).

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When does leisure become work?

‘Be inspired by everything.’

I found myself asking when the things we enjoy become chores yesterday when I saw the local farmers son who is around 9 years old out raking grass from the village green with his friend of a similar age. They were racing up and down the grass on their toy tractors, collecting the grass which had been mowed, and continued to do this for hours on end. Smiling whilst doing so – some would call them mad!

It made me stop and think – how lovely to gain pleasure from doing something that so many of us find monotonous, hard labour, a real pain during a busy schedule. Children see tasks differently though – maybe simply because they call it play, not work. Play is a wonderful thing. It allows for escape, for fun, for connection with others. It seems that children can be inspired by many things and show much more gratitude for day to day experiences than us adults without realising it.

Tasks such as raking the grass for many of us are seen as chores; feel painful, feel like a waste of time, feel like the last thing on earth we would rather be doing.

I stopped and reflected on the positives of being involved in this occupation for the boy: he was spending time with a peer, getting positive feedback from the locals on how lovely the village looked, spending time outdoors on a warm sunny evening, passing time without even realising it by doing something he seemed to find fun. It may be that this remains a meaningful occupation to him throughout life but it is more likely that there comes a point where he can think of something better to do with his time and feel that it is a real shame he has to spend his time doing such hard, repetitive labour.

Maybe it is our outlook when we become adults that turns a bit sour. I’m all for positive thinking but I’m pretty sure I’d spend the evening sulking if I had to spend my time doing that job. I’d see it as that – a job.

So I’m setting myself the challenge of feeling more inspired by the day to day. Feeling more thankful for opportunities to do the ‘dull stuff’.

One of my favourite books is F**K it Therapy: the profane way to profound happiness (2012) in which John Parkin describes ‘Bob the Buddha’ washing the dishes mindfully. Bob enjoys washing the dishes. He appreciates the smell of the bubbles, the warmth of the water on his skin, the sparkle on the plates when then become clean. He’s mindful. And he’s easily inspired.

Tonight when I wash the dishes I’ll practice this mindfulness. I’ll be in the moment. I’ll practice gratitude too. I’m not sure it will come as simply to me as it does to Bob but I’m willing to give it a try.

Here’s to not living for weekends and holidays, but for living in the moment, and finding pleasure in the small things in life.

Rebecca Wint

HEALTH, WELL-BEING AND HAPPINESS

( The following is the story of an Allied Health Professional. AHP’s are physiotherapists, OTs, podiatrists and many other health professions distinct from pharmacy, nursing and doctors.  AHP’s play an invaluable role in the NHS and serve the needs of many people. The authors are co-presenting at the AHP Conference  on September 12th at Leeds Beckett University – AHPs: Our Voice, Our Impact )

 

I am fortunate to have had a loving family. I think sometimes my mum had quite a challenge with the diversity of her children. She always described me as the one who always had to be occupied as a child. Whilst my sister could be left to  her own devices, there was no chance of  that with me. I sought interaction and needed to be occupied –  all day, every day, every moment . Not a moment could be spent where I wasn’t doing an activity of my choice; walking our dog, visiting the local pony to feed him carrots and polo’s, playing shops with the tins from my grandma’s cupboard and selling them back to her, telling my grandad stories about fairies I’d met at the bottom of the garden, improving my hand stands against the garden wall. It was a full and active life!

 

Looking back I was maybe born an occupational therapist (OT). I was always noticing, sensing and responding to things and people. My first ‘meaningful job’ was as a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. For the first year I didn’t drive so I’d offer residents the chance to have a walk into town, up to the local cinema or a game of pool at the nearby pub. One year in and I’d got my driving licence. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be seen trying my best to fit 4 residents in my tiny ford fiesta so I could take them further afield. I remember it being one man’s birthday and I asked him if he could do anything that day what would it be. He wanted to visit Nottingham so off we went. When I look back it was all about what mattered to the people I worked with. It was all about them following their dreams and doing the things that were in their hearts. I also got a glint that in this there was something deeply therapeutic.

 

By the age of 20 I’d got itchy feet and enrolled to work on a summer camp in America. Here I met someone who was to become one of my best friends. She was an OT from Denmark. As we compared work experience and interests it became clear to me that I might have options leading on from support work. After 4 months travelling with my friend and returning to England I soon booked a flight to visit her in Denmark and observed the work she did. Why hadn’t I thought of it before, a job which purely focuses on the way people are occupied; enabling them to do the most important occupations to them in ways that promoted health, well-being and happiness. In health circles we often don’t mention happiness but it is a core human wish and hope. Perhaps it should echo through our services.

 

A number of family and personal struggles showed me quite dramatically in a  very experiential way how easily day to day functioning in life can be disrupted and even destroyed. Seeing people close to me struggle to do the things they loved and which they were doing until last week made me all the more determined to help people in challenging times. Having a glimpse of losing yourself in all this made can make one more determined to enable others to find themselves.

 

Starting at university I wondered where my path would take me. For someone who needs new occupational challenges as a current of her life, the thought of working as an OT and service the community in different shares and forms was very attractive.

 

I wasn’t wrong. I’m just 4 years into my career and in that short space of time my job has provided me with much satisfaction in the variety of challenges and opportunities it offers. I’m not too caught up in diagnosis, what I’m caught up in is the occupations that make people tick. Whether meeting people in a neuro-rehab setting, secure hospital, mental health rehab ward, people who are homeless, people struggling in their own homes, or residential and nursing homes one thing to me is clear. Occupation is relevant. Without it we are not us. Using meaningful occupation can bring hope, and it can bring a person’s soul back to life. As well as medication and bandages , occupation is worth prescribing. There is something about what we do that makes us who we are.

 

OT’s are part of the Allied Health Professionals family – a big and diverse family that works in the NHS and elsewhere to support those in need. I welcome the AHP conference in Leeds as its all about celebrating the work and voice of AHP’s. AHP’s are at the heart of the NHS making a difference for so many people. I am proud to be part of their number. I look forward to being at the conference. It will all be a part of the learning and listening and searching that a little girl started many years ago. I am glad it hasn’t stopped.

 

 

Rebecca Wint

John Walsh

 

 

 

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 )

Coping with stress: the good, the bad, and the ugly occupations we find useful

Last week was men’s health week and the theme this year was ‘dealing with stress’. We had an exciting week of activities at the centre for people who are homeless I am currently working at. For one of the Occupational Therapy led sessions we focused upon how to deal with stress through the use of occupation. Within this session group members were encouraged to put their ways of coping into a collage of either pictures or words.

Participants were informed that there was no right or wrong and encouraged to think of as wide a range of occupations as possible to outline their coping mechanisms. We chatted and by the end were joking that we must include the good, the bad, and the ugly things we do to cope through stressful situations. This generated lot’s of discussion and some people were able to see how their coping style’s had changed over the years and dependent on circumstances.

As an OT I like to view all activity that holds a purpose to individuals as meaningful occupation. So often we can get the impression that it is bad to engage in occupations such as self-harm, graffiti, and smoking; to name but a few. I often wonder how many people could really say they have never found these less accepted strategies genuine ways of coping and a way to get through some of the stressful situations that life brings.

This group allowed us to encourage the more healthy ways of coping and some people mentioned that they would try idea’s other people mentioned such as listening to music, walking, and going to the free local gym sessions. The most positive thing about the session was seeing people learning from their peers and thinking of new ways to cope. Every one who participated brought a new idea and generated discussion making for an interesting and social afternoon.