Girl, 10, with blood clot on brain receives 'amazing' sheep therapy treatment

Emily Tarr, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, was diagnosed last year with a blood clot on her brain. The sheep visited her to make a 'dream come true'.

Emily and mum Claire spent time with the sheep who visited their family home in High Wycombe. (EWE Talk)
Emily Tarr and mum Claire spent time with some 'therapy sheep' who visited their family home in High Wycombe. (EWE Talk)

A 10-year-old girl with a serious brain swelling has received "amazing" treatment to support her mental health – from three 'therapy sheep'.

Emily Tarr, who lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, with her mother Claire and three siblings, was diagnosed with a blood clot on her brain last year, which led to severe swelling, sinusitis and mastoiditis.

Claire Tarr told Yahoo News UK: "Unfortunately upon a recent MRI scan of her brain there has been no change to the blood clot and they've made the decision to stop all medication. They will watch Emily and document and changes from here.

"She gets tired quite easily but remains okay at the moment and I'm praying it stays that way.

"Unfortunately the doctors just don't know what's going to happen. If she deteriorates from now she will need high risk operations, and as a mother I'm petrified."

Tarr set up a JustGiving page to enable her to take Emily to Disneyland, to make memories with her family, and said that she also wanted to make the sheep-loving girl's dreams come true, so asked locally if anyone knew how she could take Emily to safely meet some sheep.

Oxfordshire-based charity saw EWE Talk saw Tarr's plea when it was shared on social media, and offered to help.

Emily Tarr, who suffers from a blood clot on her brain, received 'amazing' sheep therapy at her home to support her mental health. (EWE Talk)
Emily Tarr, who suffers from a blood clot on her brain, received 'amazing' sheep therapy at her home to support her mental health. (EWE Talk)

The unique mobile service sees founders Emma Redman and Pippa Ashton travel to residential properties around the UK and encourage patients – usually children – to connect with the sheep.

Redman told Yahoo News UK: "We were so happy to be able to bring some joy and happiness to Emily's life.

"Our mission is to showcase the therapeutic benefits of spending time with sheep, and it was heart-warming to see Emily's excitement and delight during the session."

She said that sheep therapy is unique as an animal-based treatment because unlike puppy or equine therapies, sheep have a deep "prey drive", which makes them highly reactive to threats. It also makes them very perceptive.

Tarr added: "Ewe Talk have made my daughters dreams come true. I never expected anyone to actually bring sheep to my back garden.

"Emily was amazed and couldn't believe what was going on. She hasn't stopped telling everyone! It's honestly been the best experience and I can't thank Ewe Talk enough.

"We are so uncertain of what's going to happen with Emily. Like any parent, my children are my world and without them I don't know where I'd be."

Emma, who loves sheep, brushed and stroked the visitors in her garden. (EWE Talk)
Emily, who loves sheep, brushed and stroked the visitors in her garden. (EWE Talk)

Ashton said that Tarr had warned them that Emily might be overwhelmed or unsure when the animals arrived, but the visit was a resounding success.

She said: "She was so excited and was really taken with the two sheep we brought over right away.

"You could see in Claire's face how much it meant to her to see her daughter so happy. Emily was belly laughing and playing with the sheep and Claire said to us that she hadn't heard her laugh like that in so long."

Ewe Talk is a non-profit organisation and Redman told Yahoo News UK that she and Ashton are "passionate about creating a service that can apply across the board, but especially for younger people going through tough times".

She said the planned next steps for the business would be to create schemes in local schools whereby the two founders could function as "sheep-bearing breaktime monitors".

Emma (left) and Pippa travel the country with their flock, offering sheep therapy for vulnerable children. (EWE Talk)
Emma Redman (left) and Pippa Ashton travel the country with their flock, offering sheep therapy for vulnerable children. (Ewe Talk)

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She said: "Some children have such a hard time in school and there's so much pressure to be a certain way or do what everyone else is doing.

"We've found that bonding with sheep is an incredibly helpful thing for allowing young people to let those barriers down and open up.

"There's not the pressure of counselling, because the sheep aren't asking anything of them, but it's always surprising how many people do start sharing once they feel comfortable and safe."

Claire Tarr's fundraiser for daughter Emily can be found here.

What animals are used for mental health therapy and how do they help?

According to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), including animals in therapy session can help people open up and feel more at ease. It can also give therapists useful insights into people's feelings and behaviour, seeing how they form relationships or respond to different situations.

BACP member Sarah Urwin says on its website: “Animals are a mood lifter and an ice breaker. They are honest, empathetic and naturally authentic. They don’t judge and they’re not vengeful. They live in the moment."

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Dodger the Therapy Dog at The National Pet Show at NEC Arena on November 03, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage)
Dodger the therapy dog takes a break at The National Pet Show. Dogs are the most common therapy animal, but horses, rabbits and even sheep can also be used to assist with counselling and therapy sesions. (WireImage)

There are around 6,300 pets as therapy dogs visiting hospitals, residential nursing homes and special needs schools in the UK. But while dogs are the most-used animals for therapy, sheep, rabbits, horses, hamsters and other animal can also be used.

Tracie Holroyd, who works with horses for therapy, says: “Not everybody can engage in therapy in the room, but for many clients, animal-assisted doesn’t seem like therapy.

“Clients may not know what they want from counselling. Being out in the field watching the horses gives them the space and time to feel safe enough to open up and helps them identify what they need. They see aspects of themselves, their relationships, families or work in the horses and how they interact and respond.”