At CPJ Field we have our own 'Charity Volunteer Day' - an opportunity for all our colleagues to volunteer for one day per quarter at a charity of their choice, during the working week. Our Memorial Administrator, Helen volunteers with the charity, Dogs for Good. A life-transforming charity who work to create partnerships between people living with disabilities and specially trained assistance dogs.
Dogs for Good was founded 31 years ago by a lady called Frances Hay who sadly contracted bone cancer at a young age and had a leg amputated as a result. As a keen dog owner she identified ways her pet dogs could help her and trained them to carry out tasks such as collecting the post, emptying the washing machine etc etc. She then went on to set up Dogs for the Disabled, originally run from her garage at home, as a charity which trained dogs to assist other people with physical disabilities. Frances was definitely someone I would have had on my list people you would most want to have round for dinner as her foresight, courage, love of dogs and zest for life at a time when the future must have been quite frightening, I find inspirational. Sadly Frances died as a result of her cancer but the charity continued and flourished and there are still people involved who knew her and ensure her principles and vision are maintained.
The charity changed its name to Dogs for Good 5 years ago as it had evolved so much over the years to provide assistance dogs not only for adults and children with physical disabilities, but also learning disabilities. We now train Autism dogs, community dogs who work with adults and children who can benefit from working with a dog but cant have their own at home, School dogs, and Dementia Dogs as well. Dogs for Good is continually evolving and has a real can do attitude when taking on new areas and new ways of working whilst never losing sight of the founding principles.
Like many volunteers I have several roles within the charity, I am a Registered Speaker for them so give talks to different groups, currently via Zoom as we cannot attend in person, Im part of the local Fundraising group which attends and hosts different fundraising events - a real challenge this year, and primarily I have THE BEST ever volunteer role as a Breed Stock Holder. Edna is one of Dogs For Goods 13 Brood Bitches. She is a Golden Retriever who lives with us as an integral part of our family day to day but will also attend events as an ambassador for Dogs For Good. Then once a year(ish) she has a litter of puppies specially bred to one day become assistance dogs hopefully. The puppies are born at home with us and stay here for the first 8 weeks of their lives. During that time we not only nurture and care for them and the mums, we also do our utmost to set the puppies up well for the next stage in their journey to becoming assistance dogs. To do this we expose them to lots of different sights & sounds, people, traffic noises, normal household hustle & bustle etc etc. We also have to play with the pups and get them used to being handled which my twins love doing. By the time they leave us we want them to be confident, keen to explore and ready to venture out. It's really just like raising children but in a very condensed time frame.
I have to confess to shedding a few tears when the puppies leave, its an anxious time waiting to hear how they settle in their new homes. From us the puppies go on to the Puppy Socialisers who I think are very brave people as they take our puppies into their homes for a year/ 18 months, again exposing them to as many different environments and experiences as possible and then have to hand them over for training at our center in Banbury. Once in training the dogs are continually assessed for their suitability to our different work streams and then matched to the clients on the waiting list. This takes approximately 16 weeks. Once matched to a client or role, the dogs are the trained specifically to their needs and handed over to our team of Instructors who then work with the dogs and their clients. This relationship continues throughout the dogs working lives.
The brood bitches have a maximum of 4 litters, less if there are any complications, and we abide by the Kennel Club standards for breeding. Once their breeding lives are completed the girls stay with their holders and enjoy a happy well earned retirement. To me nothing beats seeing a dog you have helped bring into the world and loved and nurtured going on to change someone's life. That might sound dramatic but it is truly humbling to meet our clients and hear the impact our dogs make in their lives. It goes way beyond the physical tasks they can carry out, its more the confidence they bring and purpose and feelings of self worth. The power of our dogs never ceases to amaze me and to play a tiny part in achieving that is one of the things that makes me most proud.
From everyone at CPJ, a very heartfelt thanks goes out to Helen and her colleagues at Dogs for Good. At CPJ Field we are proud to support the communities in which we serve and for all our efforts in fundraising, collecting dog blankets and much needed items for their doggy recruits, the charity have affectionately named one of the pups from Edna's litter after our Chairman, Colin Field.