People from across the region pulled on their walking boots and set off on a walk with their four-legged friends, raising nearly £6,000 for a North East friendship dog charity.
Wag and Company, which works to combat loneliness for older dog lovers, has been hit hard by pandemic restrictions that have been in place for over six months. In usual times, the charity’s annual fundraiser, the Walk for Wag, takes place at the Kielder Water and Forest Park, with people choosing to walk either 10km or 3km along the beautiful Lakeside Way.
With the group event unable to go ahead this year, the charity instead encouraged dog owners to develop their own socially distant walks for Wag anywhere they wanted within the North East or beyond.
74 people walked a total of 700km overall, raising much-needed funds in the process. Registration for the event was completed online and participants were encouraged to share videos and photos from their walk via email and social media.
Diane Morton, founding director of Wag and Company, said: “Although it was a great shame to cancel one of our biggest fundraisers of the year, we were blown away by the support for this year’s alternative which brought us together in a unique way to raise money to help maintain the special friendships we’ve created.
“Walkers shared some gorgeous photos – from as far away as the Isle of Skye – and it’s amazing to raise the amount we did because every penny is so needed right now.
“Although we were physically separate, we were together in spirit. The funds will prove invaluable to the future of the charity as we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm. A huge thank you to everyone who got involved.”
Queens Award-winning Wag &Company was launched in 2016 to tackle loneliness and isolation among older and vulnerable dog lovers in the North East. In a world without a global pandemic, its network of 407 volunteers and their dogs visit people on a 1:1 in their own homes and also 245 regional care and nursing homes.
Volunteers and their dogs are currently not able to safely visit their elderly friends in their own homes and residential care environments due to social distancing guidelines, but everyone is keeping in touch in new, remote and creative ways.
Ian Hunter, a Wag volunteer from Whitley Bay who also walked for Wag this year, said: “No one should suffer loneliness in this day and age and if I can do anything to help, count me in.
“I immensely enjoyed taking my dog Hettie into the palliative care unit at North Tyneside General Hospital, talking to very poorly people, putting a smile on their face and enjoying a laugh and a joke.
“Wag and Company has achieved so much so far but unfortunately there are still people out there who need our help.
“I want to do what I can to enable the charity to do this – I am proud to say that Hettie and myself are a Wag team.”