Member of the month – March 2021

Name: Val
Area: Warwickshire
Dogs: Sonnie

For us, the journey into the therapy dog world just seemed to happen. We did not plan to get a therapy dog. After three years of our youngest son asking for a dog, we decided the time was right to research breeds. We then chose a cocker spaniel because they were known for their temperament with children, and we liked the size of an adult spaniel. We wanted a dog that our two boys would be happy to walk and a good all round family pet.

From there, and a few unsuccessful trips to Dogs Trust later, a colleague at work recommended a breeder, who happened to have a litter of cocker spaniel pups. It really was a case of right dog, right time and we picked this little dot of a cocker spaniel, the only golden one of the litter. Our son named him Sonnie and chose the spelling and on the 18th December 2018, 9 week old Sonnie joined our family. We were complete newbies to dogs, and had to learn what he needed and how to meet his needs.

Due to work commitments, we needed a doggy day care. Gerard and Christina from Dog Sit and Stay were only too happy to take Sonnie in, and that is where our therapy dog journey starts. We had excellent recommendations for training and, owning therapy dogs themselves and Christina being an assessor, plus knowing Sonnie really well, it was an easy transition. I was very keen that our membership was a family event and when Canine Concern gave each of us an ID card and lanyard, it was the icing on the cake.

We were then able to join Gerard on their visits to local libraries on a Saturday morning and our boys love talking to visitors and being involved, just as much as I do. As I worked in a primary school, Sonnie was able to have scheduled visits too which the children and Sonnie loved. A highlight was when the Reception children’s topic was All About Dogs.

We were really fortunate to be able to help out with Canine Concern’s stand at Crufts. To be able to have a day out as a family and promote the Bark and Read scheme was very enjoyable. It was lovely to meet other members of the Canine Concern team and was one of the last things we did prior to the first lockdown. Lockdown has changed things enormously for us as a family. I resigned from my job and started my four years of training to be a counsellor last September. My husband has been super busy with work and our boys have been dealing with the challenges of remote learning. Our eldest finds it highly amusing when Sonnie sits on the chair next to him whilst he’s completing schoolwork and our youngest loves reading to him, so even in lockdown Sonnie has been providing family therapy. We are also puppy socialisers for Dogs for Good so Sonnie currently has a playmate for the time being. I completed the Family Dog workshops in June 2019, who work with families with autism, and this helped us learn about dog behaviour and gain the best we can for our family.

So, we have come quite a long way and learnt an enormous amount of doggy information since December 2018! I am currently in the process of organising Canine Concern visits for our local secondary school once we are released from lockdown. Giving pupils time to de-stress and read, whilst stroking a dog, works for any age and I love seeing Sonnie perform his “magic” and we are looking forward to restarting visits again.

Canine Concern Comments

It is lovely to see our junior members getting experience in volunteering and promoting the charity. Val and her family are brilliant advocates for Canine Concern and the work we do. Seeing their happy dog, Sonnie, and a happy family, who would not enjoy and benefit from their visit?

They have represented us at Crufts and demonstrated so well how good Sonnie is for our Read to Dogs scheme. Our dogs are brilliant, but we also need to have great handlers to make a Canine Concern Team.

We’re so pleased that you found us, Val!