Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a terrible reputation: they're supposedly the sorts of dog that will kill you and eat your children. Not so Velvet.
Velvet is a blue Staffie, who is about seven years old. She was abandoned outside my shop when she was about 2, having suffered a miscarriage on my front door step. She had been used for back street breeding whilst still a puppy herself and her body eventually gave up. When I found her, she had an eye infection, an ear infection and under-developed back legs as well as being surrounded by her miscarriage. I took her into my shop where she bled onto the gold-coloured carpet. I cleaned her up and then took her round to see the nearest vet to work. He advised me that she was unchipped and that I should take her to Battersea Dogs' Home.
With a heavy heart, I took Velvet to the Dogs' Home but over the ensuing days, I couldn't get her out of my mind. Eventually I rang Battersea and asked them if I could buy her back from them and ten days later we were reunited.
Staffies were known as the "nanny" dogs. They are remarkably soft creatures and are brilliant with children. The Kennel Club only endorses two breeds of dog unequivocally if you have small children: Labradors and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Given Velvet's sweet nature, I decided to train her to become a Pets As Therapy dog and after about one year of training and passing assessments and my filling in lots of forms, we started work as volunteers at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Every week, Velvet goes onto three wards and visits small children, adolescents with mental health issues and older people who have had strokes. Over the years, she has helped people with insomnia by curling up on their beds and soothing them to sleep. Velvet has spent time with children with long-term illnesses, visited patients who are about to die to give them comfort in their final moments and regularly allows friends and relatives visiting the hospital to cry into her fur. She is a firm favourite with the hospital staff and greets everyone she meets with enormous enthusiasm. When Velvet wags her tail, her entire body sways from side to side and her huge mouth opens in a large smile. She then lies down on her back so that doctors, nurses and all the support staff can stroke her and allow their blood pressure to reduce for a few seconds in a hectic day.
Velvet has torn her cruciate ligament in her left back leg and is in constant pain. This is a common complaint for this breed and she was insured when she tore the cruciate ligament in her right back leg. Once the insurance had paid out for her right leg, they refused to re-insure her. Although Velvet is a huge supporter of the NHS, there is no canine NHS and I am therefore desperately trying to raise the £3000 that is needed to repair her leg and give her back an excellent quality of life. I, and everybody who benefits from a Velvet Visit at the hospital would be so grateful if you felt able to support this endeavour to raise the £3000 to stop the pain that she is experiencing with every step and allow her to continue with her voluntary work for the foreseeable future.