Residents of a family-run care group in Suffolk and Northamptonshire have been benefiting from the company of a pet therapy dog.

The therapy dog regularly visits the home to help boost resident morale and improve mental wellbeing ­– and even joined them during their recent annual festive visit from Santa Claus.

Residents at St. George’s care home in Beccles, one of the three branches of family-owned and operated Wellbeing Care, are delighted to welcome regular visits from their favourite four-legged friend, Sam.

Owned by resident manager Joy Henshaw, the cockapoo frequently ventures down to St George’s, to the delight of residents. Friendly and eager to please, amongst Sam’s all-time favourite things are cuddles, treats and even Father Christmas it would seem.

With Santa dropping by the home to hand out presents to residents, it appears Sam is as big a fan of the festive season as anyone judging by his reaction, with Sam’s tail wagging with glee when Santa paid the care home his customary visit. Seemingly ecstatic to meet the man of the moment, Sam promptly jumped on Santa’s lap, before barking out what can only be presumed to be requests for doggy biscuits, chew toys and a meaty bone for one.

With winter fast approaching and the nights drawing in, Sam’s visits are greatly welcomed and appreciated by the residents, who have spent much of the past 18 months indoors due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Care home resident Lee Page (94) even merrily asserted that the cockapoo’s presence was ‘better than Christmas!’

Many of the residents were pet owners before moving into St George’s care home, including Jean Clare (87), who, whilst cuddling Sam, said: “I love animals in general, but I must admit Sam is my favourite – I wonder if we can keep him?!”

Discussing the benefits of animals in care homes, Joy Henshaw, Wellbeing Care Registered Manager, said: “Our residents have been very receptive to Sam the dog’s presence at St George’s. It has proven to be an amazing way to bring joy and happiness into the lives of our residents.

At Wellbeing Care, we aim to provide the highest possible standard of care for each resident at all times. Seeing our residents react in such a positive manner towards our new furry pal has been wonderful to see.

We hope to continue to delve into the benefits of animal therapy and the positive impact it can have on a person’s life. Perhaps in the future, we can introduce more animals into the care home to see if it generates a positive impact on residents’ mental and physical wellbeing. If so, we will definitely set up more events like this in the near future.”