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I have always been a dog lover and I was definitely getting broody for a dog but my other half was being very sensible and holding out. I needed my pooch fix from somewhere so decided to look into becoming a volunteer rescue dog walker during my spare time at a weekend. It ticked all the boxes of doing my bit for a charity, spending time with dogs and going for a walk. I contacted Jo at SYESSR to enquire about being a volunteer and two years later I’m still here.

When I had my interview with Jo she kept asking me about my fitness and reiterated a number of times “our dogs really pull”, I confidently assured her I was used to walking strong dogs and I would be fine. I turned up on my first weekend and was warmly greeted by Jo and made to feel very welcome. As for “pully “ dogs she was not kidding ! There were about 3 of us and we took out a group of dogs and everyone was a puller. We looked quite a sight crossing the road being dragged along by the pack, a familiar sight I was to learn.

I, like a number of people, have a perception that a dog rescue will be filled with strays and dogs that have been subjected to neglect and cruelty and if I’m honest my motivation for volunteering was to give some love and support to these dogs. The reality is that while we do get some dogs falling into that category the majority of our dogs come into the rescue as a result of changed circumstances in the home, an owner becoming unwell, the arrival of a new baby or owners who can’t cope with the dogs needs. As a result many of our dogs will not have been trained or exercised to a level required by the breed and so can be a bit of a handful.

The good bits: despite the challenges the dogs present they are all without exception loved by everyone at SYESSR and get a very positive experience during the time they are with us. We walk around the lake at Treeton Meadows and on a beautiful summers day you could be fooled into thinking you are in the Loire Valley. Once you get to know and love the dogs especially those in for prolonged periods of time and build up some trust with them there’s nothing better than spending a bit of time after the walk having a cuddle and a fuss. You get a good work out ! Getting to know your fellow volunteers all of who are lovely and having a laugh and joke with Jo, Heather and Andy. Most of the dogs love being out together and watching dogs running around having fun is a joy to see, especially those dogs that haven’t enjoyed the benefits of being exercised properly. Seeing the dogs being re-homed and reading updates from the new families.

The not so good bits: if you like to look good, this is not for you ! Never wear light coloured clothes you only get covered in muddy paw prints. No need for make-up, it only wears off after a sweaty walk being pulled by a strong dog. You will smell of damp dog and worse on occasions. The day I tripped over and got dragged across the courtyard by Buddy and Mutley on my belly skidding through some poop was not my finest moment ! My fellow volunteers were very supportive and stood there laughing at me 😊. On occasions we have had to get wet and pull dogs out of the lake. Rescue dogs can be unpredictable and there is always a risk when being around them and you have to respect this at all times. I have been bitten once and am always aware this can happen and understand and accept that risk. The dogs need walking in all weathers and the walk experience while in summer is akin to the Loire Valley in winter think Glastonbury but colder.

One of the key risks of volunteering is falling in love and taking one home, this is not uncommon and inevitably happened to me. We had a couple of gorgeous sisters (imposters not Spaniels for a change😊) in and rehoming them was becoming a challenge. They used to come home with me for weekend sleepovers to help with their socialisation and to give them a bit of home comforts. One of them got re-homed and needless to say I adopted the other and she is part of the family now.

Being a volunteer with SYESSR has become a much loved part of my life and I would encourage anyone to do it. That said it’s not for the feint hearted, it can be hard not to be emotional about the circumstances some of dogs have had to experience. However if you’re like me and enjoy a challenge and enjoy a good drag around in the fresh air sign up today !


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