Labrador trained to help dementia patients seeking home near Glasgow

A dog trained to help people with dementia is seeking a new family it can support.

The Dementia Dog project is hoping to match a young Labrador with someone who is at a mild stage of dementia and living at home with a full-time unpaid carer in greater Glasgow.

The collaboration between two charities – Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good – has existed for a decade and aims to bring joy and company for people suffering from dementia, as well as boosting confidence and independence.

Dementia assistance dogs are highly trained and able to help their family with tasks such as fetching medication or reminding their owner to complete their daily routine – and organisers hope to place one with a family this spring.

The dogs live at home as a constant companion, and create a sense of purpose and playfulness.

But they also have full public access rights, unlike pet dogs, to provide reassurance and support in busy and unfamiliar environments.

It will be the tenth time the project team has placed a dog in a Scottish home since the scheme was launched 10 years ago.

Some have gone onto retrain as “activity dogs” in Alzheimer Scotland’s Dementia Resource Centres and in the community where they take part in a range of events such as doggy bingo – where dogs “call out” the numbers – as well as scavenger hunts and art-themed sessions.

Black Labrador Lenny (pictured), who was matched with Jon and Jeannette King, of Dunbar, East Lothian, is now an “activity dog”, nearly six years after he was matched with the couple in August 2018.

Lenny brought joy to the couple’s lives before Mr King passed away in January 2021, having been diagnosed with dementia in August 2016.

He now takes part in community events, as Mrs King wanted to share the dog’s unusual skillset with other families who have been hit by dementia, which affects more than 90,000 people in Scotland.

Mrs King said: “It wasn’t so much the practical things that Lenny did for Jon – it was the light he brought into our lives as we embarked on this new experience together. Lenny made us laugh and smile, providing companionship and comfort when Jon was alone or feeling low.

“Friends commented on how sociable Jon had become after years of preferring solitude. Those years were filled with unexpected happiness, instead of the downward spiral we’d dreaded.”

She added: “Lenny is ready and able to bring pleasure to people living with dementia – I see it as a very small way of giving thanks for the blessings Dementia Dogs gave us.”

Lenny is not the dog seeking a new family it can support. That dog is a young newly trained Labrador.

Project team dementia specialist Nadia Sutherland said: “It’s amazing to see the difference these dogs can make for families.

“If you love dogs and meet our criteria, we’d love you to get in touch.”

The project team also offers workshops for families affected by dementia with ownership of pet dogs, and to help people with dementia achieve specific goals through a structured programme.

People can apply on the Dementia Dog website. Interested families can also find out more at an open information session in Alzheimer Scotland’s Glasgow office on February 14 from 10.30am-3pm.

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