A FORMER gun dog is supporting vulnerable people across Dorset through animal therapy.

Jackie Dean and her fox red labrador, Nelly, have become a sought duo after completing their PAWS Therapy Dog Training just six months ago.

Nelly was training to be a gun dog in Longleat but after staff noticed she was not enjoying the role, Jackie took her under her wing to become an AAI (animal assisted interventions).

Bournemouth Echo: Jackie and Nelly from Hey Doggie

“Both my parents are in a care home and I realised the benefits that Nelly was having on my parents,” said Jackie.

After spending her career working at Royal Bournemouth Hospital A&E in the radiography department, Jackie decided to try something new along the side.

In August 2023, Jackie became a qualified dog trainer before fully qualifying as an AAI with Nelly in October, launching Hey Doggie Dorset.

Over the past six months Jackie and Nellie have visited care homes, schools and even helped doctors at Bournemouth hospital to destress before their exams.

“Dealing with people with dementia or mobility issues so you really tailor the sessions, and try to get the residents to use their brains.

“They will bring up their dog from over 20 years ago, that sometimes the carers had no idea about. It might open a door for them.”

Jackie added carers have noticed some residents interacting with Nelly do not usually interact with other activities in the home.

Bournemouth Echo: Jackie and Nelly hosting a workshop

Jackie and Nelly also work one to one with students in schools for anxiety or behavioural issues.

She said one pupil struggled to sit through a full school lesson, but Nelly was able to notice when he became anxious and went to lay next to him for support.

Jackie also teaches children how to interact with dogs safely, emphasising the recent attention around dog attacks.

“Children do not always know how to be appropriate with dogs or because their parents are afraid of dogs, so we can help children understand the body language of them.”

Despite Nelly’s hard work, Jackie said they only work part time and her furry colleague does not work any more than eight hours per week.

“She is a pet first and not a performing monkey.

“She is my therapy and a really special dog.”  

More information can be found on Jackie’s website, heydoggie.co.uk.