Dog walking for The Cinnamon Trust

Steve Crouch + PoppyI live in Hastings and I have always lived in and around East Sussex. I used to be a chef, but twelve years ago I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and since then I have been out of work. I have also experienced chronic anxiety and two years ago I had a bad panic attack. I like fishing and I am interested in crafts, especially glass-work. I also love dogs and have had one with me for much of my life. But I cannot keep a pet where I am living at the moment.

From day one it has been my goal to get back to full health and I decided that I wanted to volunteer when I got to the stage in my wellness to do something. For my anxiety I am being encouraged to be proactive, so I talked to my DWP advisor to see what kind of work I could do from a legal standpoint and she suggested volunteering. I thought that this would be a good way to get me back into the swing of things as it would be uncomplicated, with limited pressure and commitment.

But before I could volunteer I knew I had to get to the stage of being able to commit for a few hours a week, and as I was interested in dog-walking, this would mean my being physically able to do a weekly two-hour walk. This was quite a leap of faith for me in view of the levels of fatigue I experience.

I cPoppyontacted Volunteer Centre East Sussex in January 2016, and they suggested a number of of dog-walking and animal-related opportunities, as well as a couple of crafts related roles. I made contact with The Cinnamon Trust and I have been a volunteer dog walker for them for about three months now. Twice a week I visit a lady in Hastings who is unable to walk her dog herself. The lady and her dog, Poppy, are so pleased to see me every time – it gives me a such a boost!

For the first time in a long time I have a responsibility twice a week to do something. This has become a big part of my life now – and it’s not just the dog-walking, it’s the chat and a cup of tea with the lady I am helping. It does us both so much good. It’s such a lift to my sense of worth and my sense of being useful.

When I started volunteering my housekeeping took a bit of a hit, however, as I struggled to balance the dog-walking with my daily chores. This is improving slowly now – it’s a work in progress!

What the volunteering has helped me realise is that I can orchestrate different aspects of my life successfully. And so it has been a springboard for me to go back into further education, as I have enrolled to do a Designer Maker degree at Sussex Coast College
in Hastings, starting in September.

Sally Collins, Volunteer Coordinator at The Cinnamon Trust says:

Steve and his fellow volunteer Patricia have been an amazing help to Poppy’s ‘mum’ who sadly lost her husband earlier this year. He was the main dog walker so Poppy was missing her walks as well as her ‘dad’. Now she is ecstatic every time her walkers arrive. They each do two long walks twice a week so Poppy is a happy girl and her ‘mum’ is able to keep her beloved companion without worrying about her wellbeing at such a stressful time in her life. She is so grateful to have Steve’s support, she cannot praise him highly enough.

The Cinnamon Trust is the national charity whose wonderful volunteers help people over retirement age and those in the latter stages of a terminal illness by offering all kinds of pet care.

What happens if illness, injury or just the fact that we all get older eventually affects our ability to look after our four-legged companions? A large number of elderly or ill pet owners become very worried about their ability to care for their pets, feeling that their only option is to rehome them. This is where our national network of dedicated volunteers step in to offer support, enabling them to stay together.

A team of volunteers will walk the dog for a housebound or ill owner, we’ll foster pets when owners need hospital or hospice care, we’ll fetch the cat food, even clean out the bird cage or litter trays.

We always need new volunteers so even if you can only spare an hour a week we would love to hear from you.

Please call during office hours 01736 758707 or email us at appeals@cinnamon.org.uk or check out our website for more details www.cinnamon.org.uk.