Since falling ill with long covid, I needed to do things that would be easyish and supportive for me. I didn't want to join something new or have to travel and there are a lot things I want to do but just can’t, so when I saw CareDogs on Facebook, I thought, okay I really like Hester (my friend’s dog) and this seems like a good idea; it will be exercise that doesn’t involve a gym!
I was after something a bit different and my incentive was to meet somebody new - and when I saw the dog aspect, I thought, ‘oh yes, good!’ as the best thing for me is to socialise and get outside.
I enjoy the walking aspect and I like sitting down and having a cup of coffee with [my volunteer] Rachael. Honestly, it’s the meeting up with Rachael and her dog Teddy that I enjoy the most. I get to socialise and meet other dogs and their owners.
Because of CareDogs, I've been to different places and socialised with a new person which is so good for me. I’ve also walked on days I wouldn't have walked usually because I know Rachael’s coming. We’re both chatty so we always have good fun!
We talk about everything on our walks: our families, holidays, her job and my old job. She's interested in mine because I worked in mental health and she works in PR. We talk about everything really, just life and where we are. We talk about Teddy [the dog] and are constantly documenting his adventures: ‘oh he’s gone over there!’ you’ll hear us say. We’re always talking!
Funnily enough, I haven’t always loved dogs though. My mum didn’t like dogs so as a child, I’d always hear her say “oh no!” anytime she saw a dog and I was never really exposed to them. But quite a few of my friends have dogs and when I was ill with covid, I couldn’t do anything so I stayed with my friend and her daughter. Her daughter is also called Rachael and also has the same dog breed as my Rachael from CareDogs!
The dog’s name is Hester and she was really lovely because I’d be in bed a lot [when I wasn’t well] and she would come and lay on my bed and bring me all her strange toys. She still remembers me when I go to stay there!
CareDogs has given me another activity to enrich my life. It’s good because I can only do one small thing a day so it's one of the things that I do now and it's another string to my bow.
Rachael is very flexible which is great for me. Sometimes we walk a bit and then sit down or walk a bit further or we stop. Sometimes we only go for a very small walk and other times, a bigger walk so it is very different all the time which is good. We've got a really good relationship and I think my mum was wrong… dogs are very nice!
CareDogs are dedicated to tackling social isolation in older people and pairing them up with local befrienders and their dogs to get walking and have happier and healthier lives. If you or someone you know could benefit from our service, we are currently operating in the South London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth - please email us at email@example.com