Volunteer profile : Jan Rayner visits with Teddy the Toodle!

I’m Jan and my gorgeous Wag dog is Teddy (aka Ryan Reynolds) the Toodle (Tibetan Terrier/Poodle) – more of that later!

I have been a volunteer/fundraiser for around 45 years, mostly for large national charities.  I always think of my volunteering as my hobby and I’ve had so many amazing experiences and met some wonderful volunteers over the years.  My mantra is :- If you volunteer for the right reasons you will always get back more than you give.

My other hobby has always been the gorgeous dogs I’ve had over the years.  Teddy came into our lives as an 8 week old puppy 5 years ago and we realised immediately what a special boy he was.  He is so very gentle and instinctively loving and caring.  He just seems to sense if someone is lonely or sad.

It was my lovely friend Mandy (already a Wag volunteer with Annie) who told me about Wag & Company and I knew immediately that it would be perfect for us.   We were due to start when Teddy was 18 months at the start of 2020 but Covid got there first!  We eventually got through the assessments in March 2022 and in discussion with Leanne, we chose Edith’s story from the people on the waiting list.  Why Edith? Because that was the name of my lovely late mother in law – it just seemed like a sign.  How we blessed we are to have made that choice.  

From day one, Edith and I got on like a house on fire and Teddy and Edith adore each other.  You will always find him on the sofa next to her or curled up at her feet.

Edith will be 90 soon and suffers badly with osteoporosis so she only gets out occasionally to go shopping with her grandson Christopher.  She broke 8 ribs last year and was in hospital for two weeks.  We were very worried about her physical and mental state for the next few months.   We visited more often and helped as much as we could during that time.  One of the things Edith reminisced about regularly was her love of the beach  She often said she probably wouldn’t ever be able to enjoy it again. Well  Team Teddy wouldn’t accept that so a plan was made to make drive her along the coast in April. We had a lovely walk along Whitley Bay promenade then a coffee overlooking the beach before heading home.  She was so thrilled.

Since then if the weather is ok we do a little walk in the area she used to walk her beloved Collie, Cameron.

In April this year Diane asked if we would like to start visiting the staff at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Gateshead.  She had been talking to the Gateshead NHS Trust about working together in partnership as Wag already visit patients in the community and are arranging to visit patients on the ward too.  

The staff had been asked what would help them with their mental health and stress issues and overwhelmingly friendship dogs were at the top of the list.  We did our first visit on 9th May and were blown away by the welcome we got.  We go every other Tuesday and stay for around 2 hours. We visit most of the departments in non clinical areas.  The welcome we get is immense.  Teddy is famous now as the QE has a staff FB page where they announce where he will be appearing and when!  We can come into contact with 200 plus staff in a session.  Our favourite visit is to Accident and Emergency and we make the effort to go during each visit.  They are often overwhelmed and Teddy’s visits make a huge difference and help them to de-stress.

Now in case you’re still curious about Ryan Reynolds your wait  is over!  After our first visit I chatted to Diane and the conversation went like this:-

Diane- How did it go?

Me – amazing!  It was like turning up with Tom Cruise!

Diane – Oh no.  He’s much younger and more handsome than Tom Cruise.  More like Ryan Reynolds!  Really can’t argue with that to be honest!   

Anyway many thanks to Diane for giving us the opportunity to do this very important work.  If anyone else would like to give it a go I know they love a visit every other Tuesday I can’t do.  It’s beyond rewarding – you won’t regret it.

A few months ago I was asked to become a Wag Community Ambassador for Newcastle and Gateshead and was honoured and delighted to accept. We are now working hard to raise awareness of what Wag does and why we do it. We intend to extend our fundraising and involve as many of our wonderful volunteers as we can if it’s something they’d like to get involved with.  I foresee very exciting times ahead.  I know that if we all work together we can keep the funds coming in each year so that we can keep doing this essential work within our communities.

It has been an honour and a joy to be part of this unique charity and to meet all the fantastic, dedicated volunteers and staff who care so deeply for our isolated elderly community.  Keep up the awesome work!