Some of Hornsea’s latest residents have created an enthusiastic social media storm. In early December 2020 Adrian Ashworth and his wife Claire relocated to Hornsea from Barnsley with their four Siberian Huskies. Stormy, Thunder, Thor and Binny Boo all work as registered therapy dogs. They have quickly established themselves as some of the most photographed dogs in the town.
The dogs work all over the country helping people living with dementia, bereavement, loneliness, autism, cancer, sensory-impairment, end of life care, mental health conditions and more.
Adrian has always had dogs and got Stormy as a 12-week-old puppy ten years ago. When she was four, Adrian bred Stormy and she had a litter of five puppies. It was his intention to sell them and keep one girl – Indigo as Binny Boo was first known. But something about the look in Thunder’s eyes meant that Adrian just made an instant special connection with him. At that point Adrian knew Thunder was staying. In the end sadly one puppy died and another was sold to a friend and Adrian kept the other three.
At around a year-old Adrian noticed Thunder would want to be near his father Alan. He would try to lick his temples. As time went on Alan struggled to remember information. Adrian realised something was wrong and his father was diagnosed with Dementia. Adrian said: “I know that is what Thunder detected in him before we suspected.”
This inspired Adrian to begin working with BIADS – Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support – to offer dog therapy to their members. He trained all four dogs in what he calls a ‘fluffover’. This is where people with dementia are encouraged to pat and stroke the dogs to improve their wellbeing. Adrian has worked with over 800 care homes across the country to offer husky therapy to the elderly and those with dementia.
He has also helped each dog develop their own therapeutic specialism. The dogs work with children and adults with a range of needs. The lockdown has impacted the work of Adrian and his dogs. They have however continued to do end of life sessions in private homes and hospices. Describing Thunder doing an end of life session Adrian said: “He lays on the bed and holds hand with the person. He begins to match their breathing and when they pass away, he kisses them goodbye. Thunder lies in the van on the way home quietly. After greeting the other three dogs on his return he goes to a quiet place for a couple of hours. He then comes to find me for a cuddle.” Adrian has no doubt that thunder understands what is happening on a level that even the other three dogs don’t.
Thunder is also the only dog prescribed in a medical care package by the NHS. He is written into 28-year-old Ben Fyfield’s medical notes as part of his physiotherapy treatment. Ben suffers with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome as well as cerebral palsy and scoliosis. He usually can’t move his left arm however when thunder visits this changes and he starts to gain movement in that side to stroke him and despite his limited speech he can also say Thunder.
Through the dogs Adrian met his wife Claire who is from Peterborough as her dad had dementia. Sadly both Adrian and Claire’s dads have passed away now but they found each other. Naturally they had the dogs at their wedding with Thunder being best man.
The move to Hornsea was prompted after Claire began working from home in lockdown. Hornsea is the closest seaside resort to her work in Barnsley. Adrian said: “Stormy loves the beach and I promised her one day we will get to live at the sea. We didn’t decide specifically on Hornsea but did a search and found a house for sale here. We viewed it, fell in love with it, and put our house on the market which sold within the hour. We now call the dogs the Happy Hornsea Huskies. They’ve been a good way to meet people and everyone has been so lovely and welcoming. Our neighbours are all fantastic we will never be without a dog sitter!”
Despite the normal work being quieter in lockdown Adrian and the dogs have been busy writing a series of children’s books. Four have been written so far and the first one sold out straight away. Adrian said: “All the characters in the books are real. They include Claire’s dad Gordon and Adrian’s mum Kate and a dog they had years ago – even the places are all real. The books have messages for children about right and wrong and respect etc..” You can learn more about the Thunder books series and order the books online at www.thunderworld.co.uk.
Work is now beginning to return to normal again as the service is one of mental wellbeing. The dogs are fully sanitised as they always have been before carrying out their work. This includes a special antibacterial spray for in their mouths. You can learn more by visiting www.therapyhuskies.co.uk
Adrian is a Fellow of the British Institute of professional photography. He specialises in landscape and seascape photography as well as being a commercially licensed professional aerial drone pilot, PfCO. As the lockdown eases he is hoping to focus on his passion for photography including teaching courses locally. You can find out more about Adrian’s photography at www.AdrianAshworth.co.uk
One of the exhibitions Adrian is most proud of is ‘Somewhere in Time’. This is an exhibition exploring the love between people living with dementia and their carers be it a spouse or family member. There is also an accompanying book which can be read at http://bit.ly/Somewhereintimebook