SUSAN Howard had not seen her aunt Pat Higley in 40 years before a chance encounter on the ward at Dr Kershaw's Hospice.

For 79-year-old Pat, a routine visit to the hospice with her Pets As Therapy dog, Meg, sparked an impromptu family reunion on the ward.

A new volunteer to the hospice, Pat visits patients and staff once a week with 16-month-old Bichon Frise, Meg.

After visiting the patients and staff at the well-being centre, Pat made her way onto the ward at the Royton hospice. It was there she met with healthcare assistant, Susan Howard, 65, and recognised her niece from years gone by.

Pat said: “I didn’t recognise her at first, it’s been so long, 40 years. Then it clicked once we got talking who she was. It was lovely to see Susan again, I couldn’t believe it?”

Both ladies, originally from Oldham, now live in Royton where Susan works at the hospice. The pair lost touch a few years after Pat split from Sue’s uncle John.

Sue said: “After all these years we nearly didn’t recognise each other. It was so lovely to see Pat again and have a long overdue catch up.”

Pat, who has been volunteering at the hospice for just over a month, visits patients and staff with her Pets As Therapy dog, Bichon Frise, Meg. They also regularly visits the Children’s Unit and theNeonatal Intensive Care Unit at Royal Oldham Hospital, bringing joy, comfort and companionship to everyone they meet.