Eastbourne man and his dog brighten up hospital patients’ days

Barry and Bella SUS-171108-121602001
Barry and Bella SUS-171108-121602001

An Eastbourne man and his dog visit patients at the DGH to brighten up their days.

Barry Coase, of Falmer Close, visits the hospital with his adorable Bichon Frise Bella and gives people ‘pet therapy’.

Barry and Bella visiting Suzanne Brooks in hospital SUS-171108-121651001

Barry and Bella visiting Suzanne Brooks in hospital SUS-171108-121651001

The hospital worker spends his days off volunteering with Bella through charity Pets As Therapy, and in doing so has touched many people’s lives. One such person is Kev Dakin, whose sister lost her eyesight in a stroke.

He said, “She was struggling to deal with the enormity of what had happened. She was in total darkness.

“Then one day when I was visiting, she was laughing and smiling.

“Bella was sitting on her bed, Barry was talking to her, and she was back to being my happy sister. I cannot praise Barry Coase, and Bella, enough.

“It was Barry’s day off, yet he visits the hospital to see as many patients, as he can.

“The smile, and enthusiasm, my sister found that day, helped her enormously. Pets As Therapy, Barry and Bella, certainly worked wonders.

“You cannot underestimate the joy animals bring, to people, and how they can lift the spirits.”

Barry, 56, used to be in the army and injured his back jumping from a tank. He says, having been in and out of hospital for a number of surgeries, he knows the monotony of having to lie in a bed all day.

The grandfather of one said, “It’s so hard to describe the feeling, everybody benefits.

“We are now even allowed to visit patients in intensive care. It’s just fantastic.

“And it’s brilliant for the staff. It just breaks it up a little bit for that couple of minutes they are stroking her they can forget about the stress going on.”

Bella, who is three years old in October, was a rescue dog who, Barry says, was kept in a cupbaord and had never been outside before they met.

Barry said, “she used to panic when she went outside, I used to pick her up and carry her. When she’s in my arms she just goes to sleep.

“She’s like two different dogs. At home she can be a monkey. Anything left on the side is nibbled.

“But the moment she puts her jacket on she knows she’s working, she’s so calm.

“Little children come up to her and she’s fine.”

The pair volunteer with charity Pets As Therapy, which gets volunteers to share their pets with people in need.

Barry’s wife, Petra, says the work is ‘therapeutic all round’.

The nurse said, “It’s just wonderful, it’s lovely to see.

“She has adapted to it really well, and he’s been so patient and gentle with her it’s brought her back to a dog who can enjoy life.

“She was a bit of a nightmare when we first got her.

“He kept taking her up to people on the seafront to get used to them.”

Petra, who has been married to Barry for 36 years, continued, “Barry is quite shy, so it’s the first time I have seen him in a different light.

“They’ve worked on the dementia ward together. Somebody who never spoke – the moment she saw Bella she was telling her all about the war.

“The nurses were like ‘it’s amazing’.

“It’s just incredible. Barry got the Trust Award this year partly for the role he does with Bella.

“I’m so proud of him. He suffered a really bad fall from jumping from the tank. He’s had a lot of surgery.

“This gives such a purpose. It’s a job for life.”

For more information about Pets As Therapy, visit www.petsastherapy.org