Volunteer profile: Elle Smit

I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa and have lived in the UK since 1998. While living in London, I volunteered for Age Concern and have always loved helping the elderly. Since I moved to Newcastle, I’ve been meaning to get back into volunteering, but serving on the PTA for a few years at my son’s Primary school, I didn’t have much spare time, as I worked full time.

Since my son went to Secondary school, I had been looking for the right kind of volunteering opportunity that is flexible to work around family life and full-time work.

One Saturday, I was watching my son play basketball at the Eagles Arena when I bumped into a group of lovely ladies with their furry companions. They were from Wag & Co. I couldn’t believe my luck; I could volunteer WITH my very loving dog, Willow, who is five and a half years old and absolutely adores people. I signed up that night.

Willow has been such a loving dog from day one. Since she was eight weeks old, she loved to be cuddled and loved other animals (our elderly cat especially) and people. Willow would cross the road to greet another dog and their owner. Old ladies stop in front of my house to have a cuddle with her; of course, that’s only after Willow has had a good old sniff of their shopping bags first! She makes a fuss of any visitors at home and is so good at sharing her love in a group environment. I knew Willow would be perfect for this volunteering opportunity!

Willow went for her assessment with Wag & Co, which she passed with flying colours, and within a couple of weeks, we were matched with the lovely Sylvia. We visit Sylvia every week for an hour, and Willow now drags me eagerly down the path to Sylvia’s front door. And she has very cleverly trained Sylvia, marching her to the very well-stocked treat cupboard as soon as she sets foot in her house. Willow is especially keen on sitting on Sylvia’s lap and smothering her with wet kisses, and in return, Sylvia fills the room with laughter. It’s just precious and so heartwarming. This week, Willow has become very cheeky; while Sylvia was talking and holding some treats in her hand, Willow would very gently tap Sylvia’s knee with her paw to remind her that she was still waiting for her treats!

Sylvia talks about her beloved dog Tara, who passed six years ago, telling the funniest little stories about their adventures together. Because of circumstances, Sylvia can’t have dogs, so Willow’s visits are very special for her every week as she misses Tara so much. Willow absolutely adores Sylvia, and their relationship and bond grow stronger each week.

Sylvia and her friend Janice are so appreciative of Wag & Co that they are organising a fundraiser in July, which is such a lovely gesture. Willow and I will be attending to tell everyone more about Wag & Co and for everyone to have a good old Willow-cuddle.

Recently, we attended a Press Paws event at Hay & Kilner Law firm with Wag & Co. This event rewards Wag’s Corporate Friends for their support with a relaxed and informal session of doggie cuddles and treat giving at their premises for their staff. It was such a lovely morning, and Willow left totally satisfied with all the attention and a belly full of treats!

It’s so rewarding for me to give my time to the elderly who miss the friendship and company of a dog, AND I get to have a lovely natter, too!
A bonus is that all the staff at Wag & Company are lovely and helpful, and they truly care for the volunteers and the elderly. My experience has been such a positive one.

Willow and I will soon be visiting Dene Park House in Gosforth, too, which we are looking forward to.