Member of the Month – December 2021

Name: Valerie Fillery
Area: East Sussex
Dogs: Savannah & Konnor

Savannah and Konnor

OK so you probably know me as the CEO of Canine Concern, however, I am a volunteer member too, who visits care homes, schools, universities and businesses, just the same as everyone else. In my management roles I have always felt it is important to join in with the work so I can understand the ups and downs of the role, but with Canine Concern I really enjoy this part of the charity.

I grew up with a little poodle, Cilla, as well as a budgie, Billy, and Goldfish, Goldie. I always enjoyed spending time with Cilla, then when I got married, we were lucky to find a lovely old English sheepdog cross and called her Kyra. She certainly knew when I was sad and would snuggle up. She also allowed my young daughters to dress her up or take her to the shed at the bottom of the garden when they announced they were leaving home as I was a bad mum! She was a great family dog, and I am sure she would have made a brilliant Canine Concern dog, but her time was before the Charity had been formed. I then went on to have two other rescue dogs, Hendrix and Pips, who were great fun and very supportive of my family through our ups and downs. They really showed me how much love and support our dogs give us.

Savannah & Cadbury

Then in 2008, when I started going to dog training classes with Cadbury, my chocolate labrador, I learnt from Teresa Scotcher (another person at the classes) about Canine Concern. She had just become a member, and was enjoying visits with her golden retriever, Rosie. Cadbury and I were assessed and started visiting care homes immediately. Then when Savannah, my golden retriever (who was Rosie’s pup) was old enough, she was also assessed to be able to join in with our visiting.

We continued to visit local care homes, then in 2015 we started visiting local schools after I had promoted Canine Concern to them and was inundated with requests for visits. I was starting to find that as Cadbury aged, he found the care homes too much and I was just about ready to retire him, when I decided to take him into a school who had requested a visit. He loved the attention, and when we pulled up outside, he jumped out of the car and trotted into school with a big smile and wagging tail.

He continued with the school visits until his laryngeal paralysis made him uncomfortable and breathless, after which Savannah continued the work Cadbury had started as well as her own visits. When Cadbury passed away in 2018, we decided to get another Labrador. Then Konnor came along; he was born a few days after Cadbury passed, so I felt he was very special. He is now continuing Cadbury’s work and I am very proud of what he is achieving. Konnor has certainly got personality, and can be mischievous at home, making us laugh and forcing me to stop working to play with him. However, when he is in ‘work mode’ he is amazingly well behaved, gentle, and caring.   

Even after over 13 years of visiting for Canine Concern, I still get emotional after most visits. Just seeing the difference that the presence of a dog can make is amazing. Then when you add in the communication and interaction of people, old and young, with my dogs, I feel very proud and humbled. From visiting care homes in 2008, we have progressed to visiting schools, universities and businesses. I still get sad when we find out that one of our ‘people’ have passed away, but seeing the benefits my dogs can give others makes me so pleased that I was introduced to Canine Concern all those years ago.

Savannah & Cadbury… happy days.