The Battersea ATU
Did anyone see the Paul O’Grady programme last night, “For The Love of Dogs”. It’s set in Battersea Dogs’ Home and each week features 3 or 4 dogs that have been abandoned and their search for a new home. It gets huge ratings and goes way over the top in its emotional manipulation but is saved by Mr O’Grady’s waspish humour and deep affection for all the dogs. It also gives Steven a weekly chance to tell one of his favourite jokes: “Dad – it’s Lily Savage Dad. It’s not Lily Savage. Paul O’Grady doesn’t wear a dress. You’re doing silly talking Steven Neary”.
Last night’s show featured a staffie called Sidney. I missed the first few minutes, so am not sure how Sidney ended up in Battersea but it was probably the same reason as most of the other dogs. Paul and staff were worried about Sidney because he seemed to be “withdrawing from life”. He was showing little interest in mixing with either the humans or the other dogs and was off his food too. There was a bizarre moment when they brought in Tom Hardy to give Sidney a cuddle but Tom wasn’t on the lookout for a new dog and quickly left again (By the way, Mr Hardy doesn’t sound a bit like Bane in real life). After that brief moment of contact, Sidney started to withdraw even more until it got to the point when one of the vets said solemnly that he was worried that Sidney was “becoming out of reach”. As the days progressed, things got even worse and the voiceover informed us that Sidney had started “snapping” at the staff. The same vet popped back up again and said baldly that “Sidney’s behaviour may have become too challenging for Battersea”. The programme uses lots of nice euphemisms – I suspect “snapping” meant Sidney was having the staff’s hands off. But there’s one phrase that is completely off limits in the programme – “we’ll have to have him put down”. Sidney’s card is marked but it’s never made explicit. But we, the viewer, know. Paul’s voice starts cracking up and we get a few bars of Coldplay at their most grave.
Then a miracle happened. One of the senior vets decided to have ” one last throw of the dice”and called in an independent behavioural expert. Think ABA for canines. Thankfully for Sidney the dice came up with a double six and after an hour of doggy assessment, the expert came up with her diagnosis. The problem was the environment, not Sidney. Battersea was the wrong place for him. He couldn’t cope with the communal living. His anxiety was increased by all the noise. Mixing with other dogs was too stressful an experience for him. The expert opened up a new care pathway and Sidney was moved to a small, rural placement. His behaviour immediately changed and he started to reconnect with the world.
And then the bombshell. As the credits rolled and Coldplay had a key change, we saw Sidney with his new owner, chasing a ball in a park in Tower Hamlets. Paul delivered his final line: “Four weeks after arriving at Battersea, Sidney has a new life opening up for him”. Four weeks!
You can see where I’m going with this.
Just imagine, if for all those humans trapped in ATUs, care pathways opened up so quickly.
Just imagine if Tizane, Chris, Stephen and Eden had four legs instead of two and had Paul O’Grady fighting their corner.
Just imagine if the clinical psychiatrist’s were open to the idea that the environment may be causing the behaviour that they are so keen on medicating.
Just imagine if the senior staff were concerned about the person reconnecting with their world.
Just imagine we loved our learning disabled as much as we love our dogs.
I just can’t imagine a programme ” For The Love of Autistics” ever making it to prime time television.
From → Social Care