JULIE LANKSHEAR, BCAv & SUE DENNETT, BCAv
Between them, Julie and Sue, have 35 years’ experience of working with dogs in a therapeutic capacity, Julie’s inspiration working with dogs began with her daughter who has a mental health illness, and found that the best way to get through to her was through using animals.
In August 2006, the pair presented their ideas to 32 friends, and 30 of these individuals became Caring Canines founding members with their 26 dogs. The group began volunteering immediately by visiting 29 local venues. Once the Caring Canines base was successfully established, Sue and Julie turned their attention to developing new programmes.
Their range of programmes including Be Dogwise, which teaches children to stay safe around dogs, has been presented to 3,500 children. Be Bookwise is a programme with 22 teams, supporting children who struggle with literacy and Therapywise, which has 10 teams supporting young people with educational, emotional and physical special needs.
Caring Canines registered dogs are called ‘Happiness Dogs’, as they offer non-judgmental friendship to everyone that they meet. It is estimated that members make 15,000 people contacts per week, from visits at community events to talks and presentations. No charge is made for any of the Caring Canines programmes, so people do not have to consider budgets when requesting visits, making it accessible to all. Each Caring Canines team has its own dedicated venue, such as children’s nursery groups, schools and youth groups, day and residential units, hospitals and hospices, sometimes being a person’s only visitor. Visits by the teams have both health and social benefits and are widely welcomed by those using the service.
Nominated by Mary Keefe