Member of the Month – May 21

Name: Steve
Area: Hampshire
Area Assessor: Canine Concern CIO

Dogs: Freya & Sweep (the Cat)

Moi… with Freya’s nose!

I’ve always loved dogs – I grew up with a fabulous Labrador who would sit on the front drive in our Somerset village all day, except if you drove into the drive – where he would get up and come for a ride into the garage.

Shortly after I got married, my wife and I decided to purchase a beautiful honey gold retriever – Harvey. Sadly, very shortly after we got him some dramatic circumstances in the family meant we had to give him up for adoption, so he went to live in another lovely family home.

About 25 years ago we decided to get a dog once again and this time we went ‘all in’ and Ellie, a Pyrenean mountain dog, joined us. A beautiful dog on the lead but puppy classes were entertaining as she was very independent (Pyreneans are big!). But she proved to be a magnet for children who would just run up and hug her. She was gentle and calm and a big hit.

I was approached to join a dog visiting charity – something I tried to embrace with a full-time job. I loved the visits – often being called into other places to bring a bit of tail-wagging delight. At one point Ellie was asked to go back to a home where a frail lady was living – Ellie sat next to her and the lady spoke for the first time for ages and shared food with her. Something the lady would barely engage with before. She had Ellie’s picture placed alongside her family ones.

At this point I became a bit more involved and took on talks for the charity. I did a regular slot at a local college – and Ellie would just walk around the room – getting far more attention than I.
Also, I became an assessor for Hampshire East Dorset and West Sussex – where I did a training course and got accepted.

We lost Ellie through old age at 11 years – rather good going for a Pyrenean, and I hung up my visiting – but continued by assessing.

In 2009 we were approached by a friend who was sadly separating and he asked us if we would perhaps adopt his dog. It turned out to be another Pyrenean – a puppy we had seen when he first got her.  So, Freya moved in. When I could, I got her assessed and we started our visits. Freya was very calm and walked off the lead (rather than running for the hills!)

When we transferred to Eve’s amazing Canine Concern charity in 2016, I instantly felt ‘at home’. We were like a family together and it really improved my mood. I did more and more visits and when Eve retired, Val and her husband took over – and the charity just went from strength to strength.

In the years that followed, Freya was another big hit both in the neighbourhood and with visits. I also agreed to take up my role as an assessor for Canine Concern. The skills’ transfer was easy, and the process used was a lot slicker – a testament to good organisation.

Freya was a huge help for me when my wife was taken seriously ill with leukaemia – I would come back each night from the hospital and just hug her – I got my own therapy, as did my young son.

We also managed to adopt two kitten brothers five years ago, at the request of our son, from the RSPCA. We initially thought the fur might fly – but to our surprise there was not a bit of it; Sooty and Sweep took to their big sister like family instantly and used to sit on the front lawn with her. As I work from home most of the time, I have a study at the front of the house, and often used to see the two cats either side of Freya, out there watching the world go by.

As Freya got older, I found I needed to reduce my visits so I approached Val to ask if I could set up an Assessors’ Facebook group, so we as a team had somewhere to talk about ideas, hints and tips, concerns or smiles, away from the main group – something she embraced – and I now have a whole happy bunch just itching to get back out there visiting and assessing.

Canine Concern continues to be a family for me and I have never looked back – I wear my polo shirt or logo’d shirt with pride when I can – and I’ve normally got a couple of Canine Concern business cards in my wallet. If I see a potential candidate with a friendly owner – they get a card with my contact details on as well. Beware – it might be you next!

Sadly we lost our beloved Freya in early 2020, literally overnight after 11 fur-filled years – but she passed peacefully at home. We miss our ball of fur – I can still hear her in the house. (And we are still getting fur out of things – Pyrenean’s moult!)

Will we get another dog? Let’s see, as I will want that dog to work with me. Canine Concern is really special to me – and so if you are thinking of joining us please consider it. We are a lovely family and there is always someone ready to talk and share experiences with.

Remember… happiness is dog-shaped.

Canine Concern Comments

Steve has been one of our most reliable and enthusiastic members since 2016. We are very lucky to have him supporting us, his enthusiasm is catching, and we love the fact that he promotes us so well. The charity would not exist without keen, supportive members like Steve. Our members are what makes our charity what it is: friendly and supportive.