Paws to take stock of your mental health

10th October

Meet Queenie – the latest addition to the Axell Eames Funeral Services team and a fully qualified pet therapy dog, having just passed all her exams.

And as it’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Axell Eames would like everyone to paws (sorry) for thought and celebrate the benefits animals offer us in times of difficulty.

Recognised by the Royal College of Nursing, The Pets as Therapy scheme can enhance people’s lives by providing companionship and friendship, and help to tackle loneliness.

The Mental Health Organisation says pets can “help us live mentally healthier lives”. Dogs encourage exercising and can be useful for those suffering from depression. Pets can also calm their owners, as just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet can give owners the opportunity to relax and calm their minds.

The organisation adds that caring for a pet often gives a day a purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement, which will make many people feel valuable and needed. Pet therapy dogs and cats are often taken into nursing and care homes, hospices, schools and other venues so owners can share the joy of their pet with others who aren’t always in a position to own a pet.
They can also help improve the lives of people suffering from debilitating mental and physical health conditions and illnesses such as autism, dementia and stroke by including animal-assisted interventions as part of a holistic approach to treatment.

Queenie, a one-year-old Chihuahua, is well known in the Heathfield and Uckfield area and she enjoys her visits to care homes, hospitals, schools and hospices where she brings smiles to faces and comfort to many people.

Nikki Axell, the director of Axell Eames Funeral Services and Queenie’s owner, said: “I couldn’t be prouder of Queenie. Becoming a therapy pet was definitely her vocation. Living with anxiety and depression is real! Speaking from my own experience after a breakdown a few years ago, my dogs helped me immensely.

“Depression is a lonely, dark place but having my dogs by my side helped me get back on my feet again. Their unconditional love and their ability to sense mood changes still amazes me.”

Nikki is more than familiar with the health benefits pets bring. “Petting an animal is proved to lower the heart rate and blood pressure and boost happiness. They lift your moods, and having to walk them helps you cope with facing the outside world. But the biggest thing about having a furry friend is it reduces the feelings of loneliness or isolation and loss, which is why for years we’ve kept a small dog in our Heathfield offices.

“Arranging a funeral for a loved one is a very emotional time. Queenie is there to greet our clients with a wagging tail, providing comfort and cuddles as people deal with the pain and stress of losing someone. I’m so thankful to her for giving me strength and lifting people’s spirits.”

Lydia Burke, who runs, added: “We welcome the increased use of animals being owned to comfort us humans.  Research is proving that interacting with and caring for animals (such as dogs, horses, cats and even guinea pigs) is therapeutic. 

“Some of my clients interact with formally trained therapy animals who help with their physical or psychological issues, while others just own a pet and feel happy.  Bereaved clients have told me that their pet helps them stay in the present, and gives joy and cuddles, despite their grief.  In these busy times of of e-communication and the virtual world, being close to animals is a refreshing contrast!”