Area: East Sussex
In 1995, quite by chance, I saw a TV programme on volunteering. They were talking about finding more volunteers for visiting dog teams to help the vulnerable and lonely. The phone number for the show was on the screen, so I rang and got through straight away. I could see phones being answered on the TV screen, so I asked which person I was speaking to, and she raised her hand making it a more personal call for me. A few days later I received details for two organisations, and Canine Concern came out top with its friendly approach. I received a very personal welcoming from Eve Waring, the Charity’s founder, who chatted on the phone to me, telling me all about Canine Concern.
After being assessed by the local area coordinator, my 5 ½ year old Shih Tzu, Chloe, and I began visiting our local care home, Ashley Gardens, where we formed a strong relationship with the owner and staff as well as the residents.
Approximately 18 months after joining, Eve Waring asked me to represent Eastbourne and District as the area coordinator and assessor. I set about building a team, many of whom I am still in contact with even after 26 years. Canine Concern has always promoted the importance of being personal, friendly, and supportive to our members as well as the places we visit.
I began promoting this wonderful charity and frequently contacted the local paper. I had so many articles written about myself, and the now growing Eastbourne volunteers that I was jokingly told the local mayor was upset as I had more mentions than she did! I even asked a local pub to back us and help promote the work we were doing.
We organised yearly fun dog shows, to raise the Charity’s profile as well as raising funds. The owner of Ashley Gardens (the care home Chloe and I visited) and some of my local vets donated money to pay for the rosettes and prizes and many local businesses gave raffle prizes. We would have great fun at these events, which made the organising worth it.
We also produced calendars to buy with fun photos of our dogs to help raise funds as well as organising sponsored walks. We certainly managed to get Canine Concern known in Eastbourne.
It was not all hard work though as we had a great group of volunteers who met regularly for barbeques as well as the fundraising events. We became great friends through volunteering with our dogs.
I enjoyed seeing the often-nervous people with their dogs I assessed, go on to become brilliant visitors helping so many. They would often phone me to tell me about their emotional visit. I really enjoyed hearing from everyone and would often tell Eve Waring about our experiences so they could be included in the newsletters sent to all the members of this national charity.
When I sadly had to say goodbye to my original Canine Concern dog, Chloe, it was Sophie my younger Shih Tzu, and then Rigby, my Lhasapoo, who filled her great paws. They were both amazing too and made so many people happy with their little smiles and big hearts. As Rigby aged, I decided it was time to retire him from his visits and step down myself as a volunteer visitor, as I was also getting older and felt neither of us were fit enough to keep visiting. However, I kept helping with assessing and supporting the local group. I had built up a good team around me not only volunteering to visit, but also helping on the administration side of writing articles and coordinating events. In 2015 I felt it was now time to step back a little and let the supportive team continue the local Canine Concern work.
Then in 2016, out of the blue I was contacted by an organisation who had been trying to help Eve in Somerset with the charity and was asked to take over the national Canine Concern charity. Eve was ill and unable to continue. To put it bluntly either I did, or it would be closed. No pressure then!
So back to the front line I went, with Val at my side and Brian in an advisory position. My aim being to ‘protect and preserve’ a more than worthwhile charity.
In 2019, after my 3 year term, I felt confident to retire as Chair and leave it in the capable hands of Val, Brian, and the trustees. They have honoured me with the title of honorary member and keep me in the loop with the charity work and they know I am always here to support them.
May I thank all of you for your hard work and loyalty over the years. It has been an honour for me to have been part of this charity for over 26 years. All thanks to the day I saw a TV programme asking for volunteers.
Canine Concern Comments
Barbara has been a loyal member and supporter since 1995. Without her, Canine Concern would not be around today to help so many people. The charity has certainly evolved over the years with Barbara’s help, but it has remained a friendly, personal charity. Barbara has been a great support and encouraged us throughout the long hours needed to run a charity. We had almost daily phone calls during her term as Chair of the trustees, with many a time Barbara starting the phone call with ‘I have an idea…’ She has certainly kept our spirits up with her support and sense of humour, and we could not have done this without her. The photos shown are of Barbara with Chloe, her first Canine Concern dog, some 20 years ago and Rigby, her latest Canine Concern dog.