POPULAR pooch Beau deserves a big “pat” on the back for his outstanding service to a North-East children’s hospice.

Beau, a champion English Setter who competed at Crufts in 2012, has clocked up his 150th visit to Butterwick Hospice at Stockton.

Former Darlington police officers Chris and Pauline Brown, who live at Long Newton, use the seven-year-old pooch as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dog.

“His temperament is perfect to be a PAT Dog because he’s so friendly and laid-back,” said Chris, who is the warden at St Mary’s Church in Long Newton.

Beau was trained as a PAT dog when Chris and Pauline retired five years ago and were looking for something that the three of them could do together.

As well as making weekly appearances at the children’s hospice over the past three years, he is also popular with adult patients, carers, and staff. Elderly residents at Wilton House care home in Darlington also enjoy his regular visits.

“He’s popular with youngsters but the elderly love him too – he’s just made for the job because he’s so calm and loving,” said Pauline.

Chris and Pauline have been overjoyed to see the difference Beau makes to the lives of children suffering from life-limiting conditions.

“It’s amazing to see how children with limited movement respond so positively,” said Pauline. “Children with poor sight love to stroke him, and he really breaks the ice if a child is here for the first time.”

They particularly remember one five-year-old girl who was struggling with her speech. She was allowed to walk Beau on a lead and was encouraged to say the words: “OK, Beau, let’s go.”  That progressed to “Don’t be a slow-coach,” and her vocabulary showed remarkable improvement.

Alison Appleby, clinical lead at the Butterwick Children’s Hospice, said: “It’s wonderful to see the children’s faces light up when Beau’s around. He just makes us all smile and that’s the best therapy there is.”