Rocco the laidback labrador will visit patients at St Cross in Rugby

Rocco with the team at St Cross
Rocco with the team at St Cross

A new four-legged volunteer has started walking the wards at Rugby’s Hospital of St Cross to provide company for patients.

Rocco, a nine-year-old chocolate labrador and Pets As Therapy dog, is embarking on his first visits to meet patients.

After a successful first visit last month, Rocco’s owners Hilary and Steve Farndon have now signed up as Volunteers for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust, and plan to visit St Cross every Monday.

Pets are not normally allowed into the hospital, except for guide dogs or registered therapy dogs like Rocco.

Before he could visit the hospital, Rocco needed to take an assessment which showed he had the right temperament to meet patients, visitors and staff.

Staff at the hospital ensure that full infection control procedures are followed throughout, and Rocco is not able to visit those areas where patients are particularly unwell.

Hilary Farndon, Rocco’s owner, said: “Rocco is really laidback, and when we told our friends he was becoming a therapy dog, they all said he’d be perfect.

“We’ve been volunteering with Pets As Therapy for three years. At first we visited local care homes, and schools, where Rocco helps children to increase their confidence in reading aloud. Then the UHCW Volunteers got in touch with us about visiting St Cross and we jumped at the chance.

“It’s lovely to be able to help patients, and it’s also a nice thing for us to do together with Rocco.”

Steve Farndon, Hilary’s husband, added: “Visiting the hospital is great for Rocco too. It keeps him active and he loves meeting people.”

Chris Seddon, Modern Matron at UHCW NHS Trust, said: “We’re really pleased to introduce our patients to their new pedigree chum. People don’t expect to see a dog in a hospital, but his visits so far have been really popular with our patients, as well as our staff.

“There have been quite a lot of studies into the therapeutic benefits of pets. Many of our patients have pets at home that they miss, and so it’s great that Rocco is lending a paw to make them feel more comfortable.”

Rocco is not the first non-human volunteer to sniff out an opportunity to brighten visiting times for patients at UHCW NHS Trust.

Another Pets As Therapy dog, Biddy the labradoodle, is a regular visitor to University Hospital.

Earlier this year, a local pet store also brought in guinea pigs and rabbits to meet young patients in the children’s wards as part of ‘Play in Hospital’ Week.

For more information about volunteering at UHCW NHS Trust, contact Kristine Horne, Head of Voluntary Services, on 024 7696 5147 or