I have had a dog in my family for around 23 of my 30 years. But, since moving out more than four years ago – and not getting one of my own yet – I’ve realised how much I took having a furry four-legged companion for granted.
I miss coming home every day to her smiling face and wagging tail, having snuggles in front of the TV, the comfort she provides when I’m sad. But, I also miss taking her out for a walk.
When we lost our first dog Ruby, I remember my mum suggesting we went for a walk – it felt pointless without a dog by our side. For 15 years we hadn’t known anything else.
It didn’t take long before we had Keira – walks were very different with her. She was a bundle of energy, tearing up and down fields, chasing birds, diving in and out of the water, only her curly tail above it to signal where she was.
Now, I live two hours away and rather than spending every day with her and going on regular country walks, I only get the occasional weekend.
This is why I was very excited to discover Animal Helpline. I heard about it a few years ago when they were raising awareness at the Tesco near my work with a staffie puppy called George. I couldn’t resist getting a snap but didn’t think much more of it until a few months ago when I came across the website and saw that you can volunteer as a dog walker.
I phoned them up as soon as I saw it and was there that Saturday – wishing I had done it sooner but grateful to know about it now.
Just 10 minutes after leaving our house, Dan and I were driving into the lane alongside the kennels and pulling on our wellies. We made our way to the gates where we were handed the lead of a very excitable dog.
Lead in hand, we made our way along the dirt track and into the wooded area further down the lane. You can follow this path for some time but there are also various routes heading off to both the left and right.
Now, every Saturday morning unless we have plans, we go and walk the dogs. We have had various breeds although we have noticed there are a lot of lurchers. We tend to walk two, one after the other, for 40 minutes each but we have on occasions had two at a time and even gone out on a third walk. It really depends what they require on the day and how long we can stay for – I’d be there all day if I could.
We have had a mixture of personalities, some potter along beside you while others bound backwards and forwards across the path in front. Ages tend to vary, some we will never see again – which can only be a good thing as it means they have found their new home – while there are a few we have walked several times.
In just the first few months of doing it, I have found it to be as beneficial for myself as it is the dogs. For me, I get up and out of the house, into the fresh air and get to walk a dog for a few hours through fields and woods. For them, I know they are escaping the confines of their kennel, stretching their legs and exploring. The hardest part is handing them back.
If you are in the Peterborough area and fancy walking a dog because you are unable to have one of your own – or you’re looking to provide a rescue dog with a loving home – check out Animal Helpline.