Poorly puppy being sold at car boot sale has new life as much-loved therapy dog
A tiny puppy who came into RSPCA care after her owner tried to sell her at a car boot sale is lighting up the lives of pupils and care home residents after qualifying as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog.
Shih Tzu Chilli, who was only about six weeks old at the time and too young to be away from her mum, was found tethered to the side of a van along with a crossbreed puppy at a car boot sale in the West Midlands in July 2021.
One of the animal welfare charity’s inspectors attended the location following calls from members of the public who were concerned about the dogs’ poor condition, and both animals were subsequently removed.
Chilli was taken to the RSPCA’s Hillfield Animal Home in Staffordshire where she received veterinary treatment for anaemia, fleas, worms and dental disease. She was then joined by her sibling, Bean, who was subsequently found at another address in the county following an investigation by the RSPCA.
Long-time Hillfield supporter Julia Sanders then fostered - and eventually adopted - Chilli and Bean last Christmas. She thought both of them could be suitable therapy dogs, thanks to their gentle and calm natures, and both dogs passed their assessment with flying colours a few months later.
The siblings now make much-anticipated weekly visits to Charlotte James Care Home in Burton upon Trent where they are adored by the residents, some of whom have dementia and physical disabilities.
They are also regular visitors at Thomas Russell Infants’ School in Barton under Needwood where they have formed a close bond with pupils who attend a nurture group.
The animal rescue charity is highlighting the major difference they are making to the lives of many neglected animals as part of their Christmas campaign which aims to raise funds so they can continue their vital work.
It comes as new figures reveal there has been a shocking 25% rise in the number of abandonment incidents along with a 13% rise in neglect incidents being dealt with by the RSPCA rescue teams.
Both dogs are soft little balls of fluff with very gentle natures and they have a huge impact on the people they visit. It’s lovely to see the relationships they build with the children and care home residents.
When they see Chilli and Bean they will often sit up and smile and the dogs will jump up on their laps for a cuddle. The families of the residents often say to me how wonderful it is to see how their loved ones react.
Bean’s visits to the school are just as eagerly anticipated by the children. They don’t stop talking after they’ve seen him and he brings great comfort to pupils who may be anxious or dealing with other issues in their lives.
I don’t think you can underestimate the difference a therapy dog can make to people’s well-being. After their difficult start in life, it’s heartwarming to see how Chilli and Bean are lighting up people’s lives and I hope to extend their visits to local hospitals and hospices in the future.
Pets as Therapy is a national charity that enhances the health and well-being of thousands of people in communities across the UK and strives to ensure that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has access to the companionship of an animal.
Volunteers and their temperament-assessed pets visit establishments such as care homes, hospitals, hospices, schools and prisons, ensuring that people of all ages get the chance to chat with someone - and interact with a friendly dog or cat.
Jess Piper, manager at Charlotte James Care Home, said:
We can’t thank Julia, Chilli and Bean enough for our weekly visits. The residents and staff enjoy spending time with both of the dogs and really look forward to it. For some of our residents, it brings back memories of when they owned a pet and it brings them so much happiness.
Nurture lead at Thomas Russell Infants’ School, Marie Warner, said:
Bean is so popular with the children who attend our nurture group and he’s really helped the pupils with their self-esteem and confidence. He has such a calming influence and it’s just lovely watching the joy on their faces when he arrives for his weekly visit.
Clare Davis, CEO of PAT, said:
We are incredibly proud of Chilli and Bean - two amazing dogs that have found their perfect home in PAT Volunteer Julia. As many times as these unfortunate stories come about, we never fail to be amazed by the powerful ability that these dogs have to not only forgive their past but also their willingness to keep giving back, no matter what.
Dermot Murphy, who heads the RSPCA frontline rescue teams, said:
We’ve sadly seen a shocking rise in the number of incidents of animal abandonment and neglect our rescuers are dealing with. My fear is that we’ll see increasing cases of animals neglected and abandoned this Christmas as families struggle with soaring bills. That is why we need the public's support more than ever.
Animal lovers can donate to our Christmas campaign so our call staff, frontline rescuers along with centre and branch staff can work together to help all those animals in need.