Eastbourne DGH staff enjoy festive treats from local pup

An award-winning dog from Eastbourne made a festive visit to hospital to drop off some treats.

Monday, 4th January 2021, 3:11 pm

Bella the Bichon Frise won Crufts in 2019 alongside her owner Barry Coase. Every year Barry and Bella, dressed as Santa and his little elf, deliver treats to staff at Eastbourne DGH on Christmas morning.

Petra Coase, Barry’s wife, said, “We feel it’s a fabulous way of thanking the staff and promoting and spread awareness of our fabulous locally run charity – The Blue Van Veterans drop-in centre.”

Barry and Petra are both committee members for the Blue Van Veterans charity which serves to support ex-service people in Eastbourne.

Barry, Bella and Petra (central), Eddie Braillard (left), Steve Scudder (right) SUS-210401-131932001

However, due to Covid restrictions, the Christmas visit had to be cancelled at the last minute.

On Janaury 4 Bella, Barry and Petra were given the go-ahead to hand over the festive treats from a safe socially-distanced meeting point. Blue Van Veterans chairman Steve Scudder and committee member Eddie Braillard were also present to hand over the gifts.

Throughout the year Barry and Bella help veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Living with PTSD himself, Barry spends his spare time volunteering with Bella, who he trained up as a therapy dog, at a number of charities and schools.

The Christmas visits started four year ago. Bella and Barry would visit wards within the hospital serving as a form of pet therapy.

Bella and Barry SUS-201224-103752001

The duo also work in special needs schools, and four years ago they were asked to be Father Christmas and his elf for the children. This triggered the idea of visiting the hospital on Christmas morning to brighten up the day for staff and patients.

Petra said, “We’ve loved doing this and look forward to it every year – it’s very much part of our Christmas day routine. Staff always seem thrilled to see us and that’s so very rewarding.

“We also enjoy bumping into children visiting relatives on the wards. Santa always stops and chats to them,They always look surprised but thrilled at meeting Santa and his little elf dog. We always let the children have a Bella cuddle.

“We usually go to the combat street treatment centre in Surrey on Boxing Day to visit ex-military who may feel unable to be alone at this time of year but Covid has put paid to that. Hoping things will improve next year for one and all.”

To find out more about the work done by Blue Van Veterans go to its Facebook page.