Is Digger the UK's first canine carer?

Could a small West Highland Terrier from Epsom, who goes by the name of Digger, be the UK's first ever canine caregiver? We think he might be!

When Surrey lady Joan Davis, aged 80, approached care at-home provider, Home Instead, in Epsom she thought she could use a little companionship and help a couple of times a week. In fact she has received a service that has transformed her life in a short space of time.

Joan has been widowed for some time and following a fall in the spring had become practically house-bound and her confidence was low. She did very little throughout the day and felt she was becoming quite isolated.

When visiting Joan for the first time, Paul Tame, who owns and runs the Epsom office of Home Instead, together with his care manager, Simon Burrowes, could not help but notice the lady's love of West Highland dogs. Her home was full of pictures, memorabilia and ornaments of the breed and a soft toy Westie took pride of place in the chair opposite Joan. Commenting on the visit, Simon said: 'Joan confirmed her love of these dogs whilst I completed an assessment. She said that she would love a dog of her own but her dog had passed away some time ago and she felt that at her age it would not be fair to get another one. Joan fondly told me of the time she spends with her friend's dog when she visits and it was obvious that this time meant a great deal to her.'

Simon then set about matching a caregiver to Joan for the companionship visits. Two candidates were shortlisted and Simon eventually decided on Stan Moss, a retired gentleman aged 70 who is, according to Simon 'The fittest, most active 70 year old man I have ever come across.' Stan had approached Home Instead to work as a caregiver as he was looking to give something back to his local community.

Imagine Simon's surprise when five minutes after calling Stan about the job he popped in to the Home Instead office, accompanied by a fluffy Westie – Digger! Picking up the story, Simon said: 'We work really hard at matching clients and caregivers so that they share a common interest but when I saw Digger (and Stan of course) I knew I'd found the perfect match for Joan. A few telephone calls and a risk assessment later and Stan and Digger where the companions for Joan.'

Within a month of receiving her first canine visit Joan's life has completely changed.

Joan is now going out of the house frequently shopping, visiting places of interest and watching Digger running round the park. Joan's confidence has almost fully returned and not only does she go out with Stan but she also has found the confidence to make short trips out on her own.

Simon said: 'When I visited Joan to make sure she was happy with the quality of service we were providing I received much more feedback on Digger's behaviour than that of Stan but was pleased to hear that both are doing really well! She quoted the service as ‘excellent' and ‘couldn't be better'. I realised what a difference we had made to this lady's life and how rewarded we felt, all thanks to Stan and his canine caregiver Digger!'

Paul Tame and his wife Jill set up Home Instead in Epsom in March. The company specialises in caring for the elderly in their own homes in Ashtead, Banstead, Bookham, Ewell, Leatherhead and Oxshott.

For more information on Home Instead, please visit