He is a four-legged friend to the patients of Brecon’s War Memorial Hospital who is guaranteed to put a smile their faces.

Sam, a Lhasa Apso-poodle cross, is a Pets As Therapy pooch and has been comforting patients in need of his services through the PAT charity. Sam has now received recognition from the hospital’s League of Friends who have presented him with a badge to make him an honorary member of the league.

Loving owner Yvonne Hepton, of Llyswen, has been taking two-year-old Sam onto the wards since he was only a puppy. She came to be a PAT volunteer when her sister, Mona, was in hospital following a series of operations and a leg amputation. When Yvonne bought her puppy into the hospital she saw her sister’s "tearful, strained face light up" and from this "magical moment" she new that this was something that would help her recover.

Yvonne said: "Always, someone would ask if they could have a visit from Sam and even for visitors it can break the silence and help the conversation at the bedside."

After a few visits to see her sister in Brecon a nurse mentioned that Sam would make a great PAT dog and gave retired Yvonne the contact details of Sue Stokes, the local PAT co-ordinator. In order to register, Sam and Yvonne had to go through lots of checks and eventually they set to work on the wards.

In order for a dog to qualify for the charity they have to be calm, healthy, up to date on all vaccinations, clean and above all they must love people.

Sam ticks all of these boxes and has excelled in his role so far, said Yvonne who recalled how Sam’s calm nature makes him well suited to a hospital environment: "Sam and I were walking past the door of a ward when a lady fell out of bed. I yelled for help and Sam and I sat with her on the floor while nurses flew from everywhere. He didn’t panic and was totally calm."

Sam was not the only one who was put to the test before being accepted by PAT. Yvonne also had to be assessed to make sure that she was a suitable handler to be going into the wards.

She said: "It’s quite a commitment and I certainly understand why everyone’s character has to be analysed. Working the wards with Sam requires one to be diplomatic and understanding of each situation."

Sam helped another patient after a stroke that had affected her speech.

"She would carry out the most heart wrenching conversation with him, you see animals don’t care if you can’t talk properly, they pick up on the vibes," said Yvonne.

Research has shown stroking an animal can lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels and nurses have told Yvonne in the past that they find Sam’s cuddles therapeutic.

However as a PAT handler Yvonne is always weary of the fact that not everybody likes dogs and her and Sam must respect that when they are on the wards.

Yvonne said: "Once we were registered we were free to visit any home or hospital. I chose to regularly visit Brecon because of the wonderful nursing staff here."

PAT is always looking to recruit new volunteers and raise more funds. Anyone interested in supporting the charity can visit its www.petsastherapy.org website to find out more.