Pringle, a 10-year old golden retriever, has found her own way to work since 2017. She has earned the title, Friendship Dog, spreading happiness to older people who may be experiencing loneliness according to Mirror.
This all began when North East charity Wag & Company had vowed to “end loneliness for older dog lovers” by having volunteers and their dogs come to visit them regularly. As reported in the company, there are over 51,000 pensioners in the North East who report feeling lonely all or most of the time. Many of them are dog lovers, but are no longer able to have dogs of their own due to personal reasons.
Since its creation in 2015, Wag & Company is the only charity in the UK that brings dogs to visit people in their own homes. Their website states that “with just an hour or two most weeks, our professionally assessed Visiting Wag Teams provide elderly people, often isolated and bereaved, with something to look forward to, some company, a chat, a cuppa and a cuddle with that much missed furry friend.”
For elderly people who have lost family and friends as they have grown older, and declining health has left them unable to go out and meet others, the time spent with their visiting dog is essential.
According to their website, more than three thousand people benefit from the visits, with over seventy nine thousand visits and 403 volunteers. Wag & Company also works across all 12 unitary authorities of the North East of England.
One of the people benefiting from the visits is Elsie, a wonderful 84-year-old who lives in Benton, Newcastle.
She put in a request for a visiting dog as she was missing canine company after having family dogs all throughout her life. She was matched with volunteer Emma and Pringle.
Pringle sleeps on Elsie’s feet when she is not cuddling up next to her new friend on the couch. Elsie has even bought the affectionate furry friend her own food bowl and special treats for when she comes to visit.
Pringle’s owner, Emma, says that Pringle loves her visits to Elsie, and always bounds excitedly towards the door.
“I grew up with a dog and she was like a sister to me, when we had the two boys, we decided to let them grow up with a dog. It’s just a dog there. You can;t express it,” said Elsie “Just having a furry friend. That’s all it is.”
Wag & Company also arranges dog visits to hospitals and care homes. Their unique home visiting service has been particularly vital for elderly people that were left isolated during Covid-19.
“Particularly after the pandemic, when some of our communities are seeing a significant increase in social isolation and loneliness.” said Diane Morton, chair and operations director of Wag & Company.
With the increase of cases, the charity is currently appealing for more volunteers across the North East of the UK, particularly Newcastle.
“We always need volunteers, the need is really huge.” said Morton.
Diane also reassures owners that their dog “doesn’t have to be Crufts-trained” to sign up to be a friendship dog. Prospective dogs and their owners have a suitability test to see whether they would enjoy being that kind of service animal. Volunteers are reminded that they need to only be able to spare an hour or two each week to make a huge difference in someone’s life.
“Our volunteers become friends,” Diane said. “They have so much in common, and they give people something to look forward to – a dog to love again, and someone to visit and share stories.”