Every Saturday and Sunday, Joanna Dobson sets off for a walk through the lovely countryside of the Woolbeding Estate with Piper, a handsome golden retriever, by her side.
Piper isn’t her dog, however – his owner is Jane Hunt, the popular former chief reporter of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, who sadly suffered a stroke last year.
Jane is making a slow but steady recovery, but it will be some time before she is fit enough to get out and about again with her beloved dogs. In fact her immediate and main concern when she was struck down by illness was what would happen to her canine companions.
Kind friends rallied round and they were all fostered out, but once she was home from hospital it was clear that having at least one of them back with her would be the best possible incentive to helping Jane along the road to recovery. So Piper, a placid 13-year-old who has been with her since he was a pup, came home in December and now provides her with constant companionship. Exercising him herself is out of the question for the time being, but that problem has been solved, thanks to Joanna, a volunteer with the Cinnamon Trust.
This relatively little-known specialist national charity seeks to relieve the anxieties, problems, and sometimes injustices, faced by elderly, incapacitated and terminally-ill people and their pets, thereby saving a great deal of human sadness and animal suffering.
Arranging for dogs to be exercised while their owners are unable to do so is one of the invaluable services the charity offers, and Joanna became a volunteer walker just over a year ago. In the past she has had springer spaniels and Labradors but now, living in a one-bedroom flat in Midhurst, she can no longer have a dog of her own. And while walking is her main hobby, it just doesn’t seem the same without a dog at her heels.
Piper is filling that gap and the volunteer’s kindness has a triple benefit – Jane can have her dog at home with her, the animal is kept fit and Joanna’s walks are really enjoyable again.
“I found out about the Cinnamon Trust when I was looking for some voluntary work to do,” Joanna explains about how she became involved with the charity. “I work full-time so it wasn’t easy to find something I could do at weekends or in the evening as a lot of charity work involves a daytime commitment.
“I used to have my own dogs and really miss having one with me when I go out. Walking is my main relaxation and a great stress-buster as I commute every weekday to my job in Guildford, so having someone else’s dog to walk is marvellous – I love doing it.
“Piper seems very pleased to see me when I arrive to take him out – he gazes at me quite lovingly. He is a charming old boy and so well-behaved – I love him. We have established our own routine with a walk through lovely countryside and he just potters along, really enjoying himself.
“I think having him at home with her must be wonderful for Jane and a big help to her rehabilitation from the stroke.
“The Cinnamon Trust is a wonderful charity – if you look at its website, some of the stories are so heart-warming, others are heart-breaking because hundreds of thousands of elderly people have to give up their pets because they are ill or go into residential homes. For people like that, the Cinnamon Trust is a lifeline.
“Times are hard so people don’t have a lot of spare cash to donate to charity. But giving your time as a volunteer can be just as valuable. For me it is ideal as I have a 48-hour working week and though I love my job, I need the relaxation of walking and to have a lovely dog to walk with me is the icing on the cake.”
PRAISE FOR CHARITY
Jane cannot praise highly-enough the charity and the help she has received from the small local team of volunteers.
Having always been extremely active and constantly out and about with her dogs, the stroke she suffered last July left her paralysed down the lefthand side and although she is working hard with physio, progress is frustratingly slow.
“I came home after three months in hospital and my great wish was to have at least one of my dogs with me,” she says. “So Piper came home, but it would not have been possible without the Cinnamon Trust.
“A team of three volunteers are there for us and between them they cover exercising him five afternoons each week. Joanna walks him at weekends, Sheena from Stedham two days a week and Ruth, who lives in Midhurst, takes him out once a week. It’s marvellous for him.
“Piper is 13 but he has always been a working dog and is a very fit elderly animal who enjoys going for a walk. I have two other working dogs and a puppy and I hope that as my condition improves, I shall be able to have them back, one after another.
“The Cinnamon Trust and the marvellous volunteers have made the difference between my being able to have a dog with me, and not being able to do so without some help.”