Fiona Stewart describes having a “very strong and powerful” recollection of taking her dogs into a nursing home to visit her father – and the positive effect it had on the residents.
“The difference the dogs made to one lady, who was always angry and shouting, was incredible to witness: bringing her joy, smiles and conversation,” she said.
That experience ignited Fiona’s interest in studying an MSc Human Animal Interactionat Stirling – which offered more practical experience compared to other similar courses.
“The course was a perfect combination: looking at how important animals are in humans’ lives – and the impact that humans have on animals.”
During the course, Fiona embarked on a placement with a pet therapist, visiting a hospice in Edinburgh. She said the experience was “invaluable”, adding: “Some of the clients I met were at their most vulnerable, but they allowed me to be part of their pet therapy. I also had insight into the selfless, empathic and generous nature of the dog’s owner too.“
Before my MSc, it was something I had considered doing myself – after the placement it is something I will definitely do if my dog is suitable.”
Reflecting on the teaching at Stirling, Fiona, 51, from Livingston, said: “The knowledge, passion and support of the teaching staff was fantastic. My dissertation supervisor was brilliant – so supportive, patient and always available to answer queries and give feedback.”
Fiona – who also volunteered with Paws for Progress during her time at Stirling – is now planning to embark on further dog behaviour research and to set up her own business.