Meet Charlie, Our Chocolate Labrador

Christopher Biggins visits the home to award a prize for the first ever resident dog in an Acquired Brain Injury Care Home.

Actor and TV presenter, Christopher Biggins visited 1 Sewardstone Close in Waltham Abbey on 18th October 2017 to meet ‘Chocolate Charlie’ – the first ever resident dog in an Acquired Brain Injury care home and to present the home with a cheque for £1,000.

The home is the winner of a competition which challenged the 13 homes in 1SC’s group to come up with new, creative and meaningful activities for their residents.
1 Sewardstone Close’s response to this challenge was to introduce Labrador Charlie into the home.  Now 8 months old, this lively and loving bundle of chocolate coloured fur, is an integral part of home life and has made a very positive difference to resident’s lives.

The Labrador, described by one of the home’s residents as “cheeky” and by the team as a “life changing” addition to the home, is currently undergoing training with local expert Lyn Wilson.  When he is one year old and has completed his training, Charlie will start formal therapy training – with the ultimate goal of becoming a fully accredited Therapy Dog.

Home manager, Marie Goodwin says: “The idea of getting a live-in dog came about after a new admission – a young lady who had suffered a sudden, traumatic brain injury and who has been torn away from everything she loved – and mostly her family dog.  This is sadly often the case for many of our residents who have suffered sudden and life changing brain injury.

“Charlie has made a huge difference to our residents helping to make 1 Sewardstone Close feels more like a home.  He is a playful friend and good companion, helping positively to break up the inevitable cycle of rehabilitation and routine. He provides an opportunity for all our residents to engage and interact with him and to form positive relationships.

“The first few weeks as a very young puppy were challenging!  No one’s slippers were safe!”

During his visit to One Sewardstone Close to meet Charlie, Christopher Biggins watched a training session for the Labrador and talked to residents and team members about the impact Charlie has had on everyone in the home’s life.

Christopher said: “This is such an impressive initiative to see a dog become part of everyday life here at 1SC.  My mother is 92 and currently lives in a care home and I know that visiting animals have a very positive impact on the residents.  However, Charlie lives here all year round and everyone in the home is involved in his routines and caring for him, which is clearly having a positive impact on the residents.”

Marie Godwin, home manager said: “It was lovely for everyone here to meet Christopher today.  We will be using the prize money to invest in further training for Charlie – ultimately he will become a fully qualified therapy dog and we plan to take him out in the community to visit people living alone, hospitals, schools and other care homes”.

Christopher Biggins has a particular and very personal interest in care.  His mother is living with dementia and in 2016 he hosted the Great British Care Awards.
Christopher adds: “The home told me how heart-breaking it is when someone experiences a brain injury and has to go into a residential home and are separated from their family pet.   This is such a wonderful way to help with their rehabilitation.

Marie adds: “Our residents are responsible for everything from feeding, walking, visits to the vets and his training.  It has given them such confidence and focus.  And of course, Charlie provides wonderful companionship. He now very much a part of the fabric of the home”.