CANCER patients will get the chance to make a new four-legged friend when five-year-old Ellie takes up her post as the country’s first Radiotherapy Dog.

The flat-coated Retriever will be on hand to ease stress and help patients to feel calm at Poole Hospital from November.

Ellie, whose CV also includes visiting residents at a dementia home in Southbourne, will meet and greet patients and will be available to spend time with those who express an interest.

Her services will be provided through Caring Canines, a voluntary organisation which sends dogs to help in many situations including schools, care homes, hospitals and universities.

Dogs put forward by the organisation have helped children feel comfortable about learning to read and have also helped young people settle into university life

Her owner, Nicky Smith, said: “Ellie has a lovely nature, a waggy tail and she looks like she’s grinning from ear to ear.

“It is well-known that stroking a dog makes people calmer which can only be a good thing when they are going in for treatment. Some people talk to the dogs.”

Nicky said the decision was made to put Ellie forward for the role after her husband, David, was treated at Poole Hospital.

“This will also help me because, having a husband who is a cancer sufferer, I feel like I am giving something back to the hospital.

“Ellie is such a morale booster, both for the patients and the staff.”

Nicky and David, who live in Shakespeare Road, Iford helped to raise £685 for the Poole Radiotherapy Unit at a dog show held at West Parley Memorial Hall over the weekend.

The show is a regular event held by the John Thornton Group of Friends. It included pedigree, novelty and handler classes and there was a raffle and tombola.

It is held every year and traditionally raises money for the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation, set up in memory of John, who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2008.

Nicky and David’s son was a friend of John Thornton’s and they serve on the Group of Friends, alongside John’s parents, Linda and Pete. This year the group decided the money should go to the radiotherapy unit.