Memorial unveiled to therapy dog Tip
A sculpture created in memory of a rescue pet who helped bring smiles to hundreds of patients and hospital staff has been unveiled.
The statue of Tip is now on show in the entrance to South Tyneside District Hospital’s Ingham Wing – with visitors welcome to go and give him a pat as they pass.
The Border Collie was owned by Jackie Mountain and her late husband Tom after they adopted him as a rescue dog in April 2013.
He became a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog as he settled into life in his new home.
In addition to bringing comfort to patients and staff at the South Shields hospital, he also helped keep Tom’s spirits up as he was treated for cancer, first diagnosed in 2009.
He sadly died in August 2019, followed by Tip in the December.
Jackie suggested the idea for the tribute memorial to Sheila Graber after she met the animator at an event to raise funds for Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Pat Hay last year.
Sheila, who has retired as leader of the animation course at the University of Sunderland, called in help from her former colleagues, with sculptor Graham Bowes stepping forward to turn her proto-type model into a life-size plaster piece.
Tip’s fur and features were then painted on by Sheila, with his PAT uniform also added to the artwork.
The statue was unveiled by Jackie and Sheila on Easter Sunday, April 9, the anniversary of the date when the Mountains adopted him.
It is now outside the hospital’s shop, which is run by the League of Friends of South Tyneside District Hospital, which Jackie now supports as a volunteer.
The spot is close to where Jackie and Tip used to wait in the nearby café before they started calling into the wards and units.
Great-grandmother Jackie said: “When we rescued Tip in 2013, we thought he would make a good PAT dog and he passed his assessment.
“He met lots of patients and he even had his own uniform – even his coat is on the artwork. So many people will remember him from the hospital and he loved meeting the children and patients on all the wards.
“When I met Sheila Graber, I asked about making a statue of him and I wanted to put it in the reception at the Ingham Wing near the door to the shop, where I know people will see him.
“I love it, the nurses have said it’s him to a tee and if he was here in person he would be lapping it up because he loved attention. They’ve captured the way he looked when he thought he was going to get a treat.
“I hope he will continue to bring a smile to people’s faces and they’ll say ‘There’s Tip.’”
“When Jackie suggested it, I thought it was a lovely idea.
“I’m an animator, so I did a little Plasticine model to show Jackie how Tip would look and then asked colleagues at the University for some help and Graham in the sculpture department helped make the statue.
“Now it’s finished I think it’s amazing. When I saw it once Graham had finished I thought ‘wow’ and he caught that smile of Tip’s which I knew was really important and now it’s on its own plinth, I think it looks great.
“I hope people give him a pat as they pass by.”
Debra Hepburn, Operational Support Lead/Admin Manager with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, support the volunteers who help at the South Shields hospital.
“Tip and Jackie’s visits brought a huge amount of joy to our colleagues and patients of all ages. We are delighted to have welcomed this addition to the hospital and a permanent reminder of the happiness he brought.
“We hope it makes people smile and we know it recognises the difference they helped make together. Pets As Therapy helps with our patients’ stimulation while in our care and we see its brightens their day.
“Our volunteers are a terrific help to us and we are grateful to every person who steps forward to support our work.”
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the League of Friends can visit the hospital shop to find out more.
More details about becoming a volunteer or an employee with the Trust can visit its recruitment page