There’s nothing like a pandemic to help us appreciate the little things. Our neighbours and communities coming together. A cup of coffee to start the day. Shared meals as a family. Our kids. Our pets.

Mans best friend collage

Steve is a Learning & Development Business Partner supporting our Financial Advisory team. Besides the day job, he’s now also carving out time to run pet therapy sessions for his colleagues, assisted by his dog Rufus. We’ve never seen so many smiles on a conference call…

We chatted over the phone to find out more about his inspiration for the sessions – and where to sign up for the next one!

When Steve met Rufus

“Before lockdown started, I already worked from home three days a week, so the switch to remote working was relatively smooth. Balancing work with family life has been more challenging – I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and my wife and I both came down with coronavirus. Thankfully we’re all recovered now and finding ways to keep busy.

We’ve also got a dog, a friendly cockapoo called Rufus. He joined our family after my time in the Army, to support my physical and mental recovery. I suffered a serious knee injury while serving as an infantry officer in Afghanistan, which caused chronic osteoarthritis in my legs, chronic back pain and severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Rufus has been a great help – he’s a healthy distraction, gives me perspective and makes me get out of the house. He’s even got a mildly expanding Instagram following! Now that we’ve lost the routines that usually mark our lives, there’s the temptation to bury yourself in work. Rufus reminds me to take breaks and go for a walk in the park.”

Bring your pet to work

“The firm has been focusing a lot on wellbeing recently. The Wellbeing Movement is a UK-wide inititative which brings a range of activities open to all our people, from exercise classes and medidation to quizzes and webinars. I volunteered to run a ‘bring your pets to work’ session to help connect people across the firm who might be feeling a little lonely or in need of a distraction.

The idea was simple – take a pause (or should I say ‘paws’?) from our work day, join a call on Zoom with your pet (if you have one) and have a chat. Lots of people and pets joined. We met a black labrador who knows exactly when it’s coffee time. A cockapoo who loves to go for evening walks. A champion bulldog who barks a lot on calls. A grumpy cat who growls at the postman. There was even a chihuaha dressed up as a lion!

We talked about what our pets mean to us, any challenges in looking after them, and how much they’re supporting our wellbeing these days. They’re helping us get some movement, giving us a break from work, and they love us even if we’ve had a bad day. And the pets? They all seemed to be pretty happy to spend more time with their owners.”

Road to recovery

“It’s been great to be able to help bring some lightheartedness and perspective into people’s days. We may not be able to go about our usual lives or pursue previous goals, but there’s so much to be grateful for.

Before this all kicked off, I was getting ready to represent Team UK at the 2020 Invictus Games in The Hague. The physical, psychological and social benefits of sport have definitely helped me to develop my confidence and remain focused, and I was really looking forward to competing against international athletes in swimming, rowing and siting volleyball.

The Games have sadly been postponed until 2021, but I’m trying to look at it on the bright side. I’m working on my strength and conditioning, going for bike rides and taking Rufus out for his walks. And of course, running the ‘bring your pet to work’ sessions on Friday mornings – my highlight of the week!”.

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