Area: Milton Keynes
I was bought up with dogs, mostly rescue, and found it a horrible shock when I moved out into rented accommodation where we were not allowed pets. In 2003 I remember having one of my last nursing placements in a local prison where I spent the day with the dog section. On returning home I told my now husband that I simply had to go and get a rescue dog. A few weeks later we found ourselves at Appledown Kennels in Eaton Bray and came home with Duke (name changed by us to Jake) a 13 month old border collie. Jake had been bred on a farm with working dogs and had really struggled in his first home with adjusting to living in a house. He took me on a massive learning curve with regards to behaviour, and it was because of him that we found our love of dog agility.
Once Jake was settled, we fostered a few dogs and then I recall one day having to go and buy an outfit for a friend’s wedding – I really find no joy in clothes shopping and got completely distracted, ending up at Wiccaweys border collie rescue centre in Warwickshire. Rocky (name changed to Danny) a 1.5 year old working sheep dog came home! I would not recommend getting a dog this way as it does nothing for marital harmony! Ironically, he then went on to become my husband’s dog and if I had known about Canine Concern then, he would have been an amazing therapy dog.
Plenty more foster dogs along the way, blood, sweat and tears, and the Ben came to stay. A very sad little puppy who had really had the most awful start in life. Aged 11 now and he is still quite stressed out by people.
Our first daughter was born in 2009 and by the age of 4 years old she really had a love of all things doggie and wanted to take part in agility sessions, which consumed most of our weekends over the summer. Unfortunately, none of my rescue dogs could be completely trusted with running around doing agility with a small child. This is when I had a conversation with a friend who was going to use her beautiful border collie boy as a stud dog. I asked that she let me know how things progressed as I would be very interested.
Some months later, Penny arrived at our agility class and we realised she was going to be using my friend’s border collie. I got to meet her girls and in November 2014 Beatrix was born. What an absolute joy seeing her very soon after birth and enjoying her puppy journey. From day one of living at home with us, Bea loved spending time with the children and loved nothing more than human cuddles. Bea also enjoys doing trick training with the children, agility and running with my eldest.
Penny (Bea’s breeder and local Canine Concern rep) spoke a lot about the work she did with her dogs in school and this wonderful charity (Canine Concern) that she had moved her and her dogs over to. She suggested that Bea would be the perfect temperament as she loves nothing more than human attention. We booked in an assessment date at a local lake, and I agreed to see if I could find a suitable venue.
I approached our local primary school where both my children attend; they were thrilled at the idea of us visiting and keen to get going with the Read to Dogs programme. The deputy head started off the sessions with a real mixture of children attending. For some children it is very much about learning to be confident around dogs and other people, for some it’s about the reading out loud and for others it is a behavioural reward. I have found it fascinating watching Bea work and engage with the children and I remain baffled at the social skills she has whilst working out the individual child’s needs. It has been an absolute joy seeing the improvement in the children’s reading skills and having positive feedback from some of the parents.
We were incredibly sad when Covid hit and we along with all the other volunteers had to stop going into our placements.
I am a registered nurse and work with MK (TVP) Police. One evening in early December 2020, I overheard a horrendous job coming in over the radio. Whilst I was not directly involved with the job, my allocated officer and I had a fair idea how the poor officers would be feeling when returning to the station. The officer I was with asked if I still took the dog into school and asked if we could bring her in for support. After seeking agreement from a slightly concerned inspector, we headed off in the police car and collected Bea from home. She was a little confused to be removed from her space in front of the fire, however, as soon as her Canine Concern lead and bag came out, she knew it was time to work.
She was a complete pro and provided officers and control room staff with much needed cuddles and distraction. It was incredible to watch her work and work out which individuals needed her. I didn’t tell the officers, but I know she has worked out who needs her because she rests her head on their leg and gently holds onto them with her paw! Normally she puts her head between everyone’s legs so they can rub both ears at the same time.
From January 2021 MK police station became an official placement and she now visits on a weekly basis. I know the officers all love her visiting although I find it much more difficult to manage than the school visits where the children know how to behave! I spend most of the visits telling the officers to get up off the floor, because for some reason they all feel the need to roll around with her.
We are very much hoping that September 2021 will see our school resuming visits and have been practising tricks in preparation.
For anyone who has a well behaved and nice natured dog who would enjoy lots of attention, volunteering for this amazing charity is the way forward. Bea loves going into work and I get so much out of seeing what a difference she makes to people. It’s a truly rewarding role.
Thank you Canine Concern.
Canine Concern Comments
It is interesting to learn about how our members became Canine Concern teams with their dogs. Sometimes a dog will not be able to cope with the role, this can be rescued or bred dogs. We do have several rescue dogs, but often they have been so badly traumatised they just can’t cope, even with lots of training. The rescues that do join us are often super sensitive and knowing of who to go to. Bea, who was bred from one of our existing dog members, has obviously received the genes for this work and with Charlotte’s support has become a brilliant care dog. Our dogs tend to know who needs them most and are super attentive to them. Bea has been featured in several police news articles and even was instrumental in Canine Concern being invited to appear on BBC Crime Watch to discuss police stress and how our dogs are helping.