A charity in the north-east of England has helped those feeling isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic with virtual visits from their dogs.
Wag & Company came up with the idea to help combat loneliness when their friendship animals were no longer able to visit elderly people’s homes.
Since March, dogs and their volunteers have taken part in video calls, sent cards and even made a 2021 calendar.
Chair Diane Morton said in “sad times” these “little things can really help”.
“We’re grateful really that we can still make a difference, and relieved we are able to help a little bit,” she said.
“Many of our volunteers were very anxious and distressed about their elderly friends.
“Everyone has risen to the challenge of virtual befriending… just trying to make sure that everyone knows we’re thinking about them, they’re not forgotten and we’ll be back with them just as soon as we can.”
Sheila Moody from Durham has been visited by her friendship dog Eddie the lurcher and his volunteer Diane every week since the death of her husband.
The 92-year-old said: “It’s companionship and being able to talk to somebody.
“If you’ve always had dogs, you miss their companionship.
“He [Eddie] is wonderful, he’s a very, very good friend to me. In fact, he’s my very best friend.”
The charity was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2020 for its community work “ending loneliness for older dog lovers across the north-east of England”.
Diane added: “Christmas is massively important. It can be such an emotional time, full of memories, some good, some painful. Many people can do with a distraction, particularly if they spend a great deal of time alone.
“We can’t wait to get back to visiting and in our own simple way, making a difference to people who are just like us, huge dog lovers.
“There’s nothing like a furry cuddle especially when you’re feeling a bit low.”