Belinda Johnston writes about innovative Suffolk charity, 'Our Special Friends'.
April is National Pet Month, which is good timing as surely now more than ever we should be celebrating their vital role in our lives and in the health of our communities and societies. I was going to write about our innovative Suffolk charity, ‘Our Special Friends’ and the power of animal companionship for people at vulnerable times, but I realised that my call for help might be more appropriate, Belinda Johnston writes:
“When you are talking to new people who may be in need of care and support, who are living alone or with carers/cared for, please would you ask if they have animals in their home or a love of animals? Find out if they are coping and if there is an urgent/essential need, help them to find a solution. If non-urgent, then keep them on your radar and when this crisis is over, keep in mind that there are animal companionship support services that can help and make a huge difference.
This crisis is helping to show that there are millions of people with invisible vulnerabilities and hidden disabilities in our communities, who either have a network of support that is not coping or who do not have their own safety net. As a charity we have been supporting people who have animals; and people who love animals.
Finding out what is important and what can be done to enhance the situation often produces a magical difference. When this is over, popping in to see a neighbour with your own healthy, happy dog on a regular basis can mean the world to someone who is experiencing loneliness daily.
People are realising just how dreadful loneliness and social isolation feel like. Let's make sure that we visit more people when we can, and take a dog too if appropriate. And if people have animals, let's see if they need some support and offer it. It may be letting the dog out, dog walking, pet care or fostering while they have hospital treatment and helping to keep the outside space clean. Many people living with dementia are forgetting the routines and helping to keep some structure in place keeps their pets happier and healthier.
We had initially stopped all our visits with the national guidelines in place, but are now able to continue to support existing clients and to respond to urgent new cases. Our wellbeing, animal welfare and the health of our environment are interrelated. This is 'One Welfare' and what our charity is all about.”