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Remembering Little Dorrit, Therapy Pet at Guy’s and St Thomas’

19.02.19 Categories: Patient stories, Supporter stories,

There are many things you might expect to see at a hospital: beds, machines, doctors and nurses. Something - or someone - that you may be more surprised to see is a little dog.

But thanks to Diana Mukuma, patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’ became very used to visits from a dog at their bedside. Diana’s dog Little Dorrit was a therapy pet, who Diana took to various wards at St Thomas’ to sit with patients almost every day of the week.

And if that wasn’t amazing enough, since Little Dorrit’s sad death in November 2018 Diana has been fundraising for the Lane Fox Respiratory Unit in her beloved dog’s memory.

Dorrit, Diana and Nancy

The tiny Miniature Pinscher, Little Dorrit, began her career in pet therapy in 2012. Dorrit and Diana started visiting the Lane fox Respiratory Unit, which is where they met Nancy Willis.

Nancy suffers from muscular dystrophy. She had been very ill with a chest infection and was struggling to learn to breathe again without a ventilator.

‘After weeks in hospital feeling low and wretched, Diana appeared one day and asked if I would like a visit from Little Dorrit,’ recalls Nancy.

‘I said yes, and how lovely it was to have a snuggly little creature on the bed beside me. Dorrit lifted my spirits and brought me joy.

‘After my recovery I left hospital, but Diana, Dorrit and I remained firm friends. They both visited me at home and we had many wonderful outings together where Little Dorrit sat on my lap keeping me warm and protected.

‘I miss Dorrit very much and I am thinking of getting myself a little helper dog who will bring me as much joy as Dorrit did.'

Loved by staff and patients

Natalie Grey, now critical care matron, was ward manager on Lane Fox when Diana and Dorrit started visiting there.

‘All of the visits were really special, it was always lovely to see Diana and Dorrit,’ recalls Natalie. ‘It was looked forward to by everybody.

‘A visit from Little Dorrit brought people a lot of comfort. She would sit on patients’ laps for hours. Some of them can only move their hand very slightly, and Diana would put their hand on top of Dorrit. Or Diana would sit with them with Little Dorrit on her lap, just talking.

‘It just takes the focus away from their condition and being in hospital. It certainly brought a lot of happiness.’

Fundraising in loving memory of Dorrit

Diana’s experiences at Lane Fox left such an impression on her that when Dorrit died, she decided to ask for donations to be made to the unit in her companion’s memory.

‘I was very upset and thought that I really needed to do something,’ says Diana. ‘I feel grateful to Lane Fox for giving me that experience in the first place. I felt I wanted to give back more.’

Diana is also taking part in St Thomas’ Abseil 2019 and to make it even more special, she’ll have Little Dorrit’s ashes with her as she makes her descent.

Diana and Dorrit have raised over £1,700 for Lane Fox Respiratory Unit, an incredible amount! And from the moving and heartfelt messages on Little Dorrit’s memoriam page, it’s clear that Diana had as much of a positive effect on people as her beloved dog did.

And it goes without saying that gentle, loving Little Dorrit will live on in many people’s hearts and minds for a long time to come.

Giving in a loved one’s memory can be a special way to honour them, whilst supporting Guy’s and St Thomas’ to continue going above and beyond for its patients. Find out more about making a donation in someone’s memory.

Lead image: Diana, Nancy and Dorrit
Photo by Eleanor Bentall