Abandoned Labrador Annie finds new home in Hartlepool and is now giving therapy to town youngsters

Val Yuill of Therapy Dogs Nationwide and her dog Annie at Hart Primary School, reading with  twins Isabella and Rebecca Weston.
Val Yuill of Therapy Dogs Nationwide and her dog Annie at Hart Primary School, reading with twins Isabella and Rebecca Weston.

A stray dog looking for her forever home has found it and more - taking on a role as a therapy dog to help young children.

Twelve months ago Labrador Annie was in the care of charity StrayAid and in need of a loving family.

Annie representing charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide at Crufts.

Annie representing charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide at Crufts.

She even attended a Doggie Adoption Day event at the former Doggie Diner franchise in Blackhall, in the hope of meeting her new owners.

And just a short time later she did, with Val Yuill and husband John picking her up from StrayAid to welcome her to their Hartlepool home.

Since then she has become a therapy dog with charity Therapy Dogs Nationwide, taking on her role five months ago.

As a therapy dog Annie goes into schools including Hart Primary School to help build confidence in youngsters learning to read or those who have a phobia of dogs.

Val Yuill of Therapy Dogs Nationwide and her dog Annie at Hart Primary School, reading with twins Isabella and Rebecca Weston.

Val Yuill of Therapy Dogs Nationwide and her dog Annie at Hart Primary School, reading with twins Isabella and Rebecca Weston.

She even represented Therapy Dogs Nationwide as an ambassador at Crufts.

And owner Val said seven-year-old Annie is already making a huge difference.

Val, 64, from Hart Village, said: “Therapy dogs are temperament assessed dogs.

“They have to be calm, well behaved and have a lovely temperament, and happy to be stroked and petted.

“Volunteers get to choose where they go and I chose to go into schools with her.

“Others go into the likes of hospices and prisons - anywhere where people need a bit of unconditional love.

“We do regular visits and often get called to do one off visits.

“We will be going to a stress buster event at Newcastle University law department in two weeks time so students can sit and cuddle the dogs.”

Val and John decided to give Annie a home after losing their Labrador Millie.

They already had Labrador Maisie, eight, who works as a therapy dog in special needs schools, specialising in children with complex needs.

Val continued: “Annie absolutely loves the attention.

“The children bring books and come and read to the dog.

“The programmes of reading is called ‘paws and read’ and is Kennel Club accredited.

“I think the fact that the dog is not judgemental helps to make their reading experience something they look forward to.

“It is a huge confidence booster for them.

“We also work with dog phobic children and as it is very important to teach children how to behave around dogs.”

Throughout every session Val has a hold of Annie, who wears a special Therapy Dogs Nationwide hi-vis jacket or bandanna while on duty.

Therapy Dogs Nationwide is entirely run by volunteers and therapy dogs are assessed by trained assessors who are based all over the country.

The charity is looking for volunteers who have dogs who can become part of the therapy scheme.

For details visit: tdn.org.uk and to apply visit: enquiries@tdn.org.uk

Doggie Diner has bases in Middlesbrough and Durham and holds regular Doggie Adoption Days.