Pensioners and their pets

Dawn Kennard and Joe, her constant companion

Dawn Kennard and Joe, her constant companion - Credit: Archant

The partnership between pensioners and their beloved pets can bring about purpose and happiness in what can sometimes be a lonely stage of life

Dawn's seven-year-old Shih Tzu-cross, Joe

Dawn's seven-year-old Shih Tzu-cross, Joe - Credit: Archant

There’s no doubt that in later life some aspects of keeping a pet can be challenging. But according to Dawn Kennard, being parted from her much-loved dog would be an unthinkable and solitary existence.

However, with family living some distance away and with Dawn, 80, suffering from multiple health issues, exercising her seven-year-old Shih Tzu-cross Joe has become increasingly difficult.

Step in Anna Flood, 21, a university student and volunteer dog walker for national charity The Cinnamon Trust, who has single handedly given Dawn and Joe the opportunity to stay together in the pensioner’s retirement flat in Birchington-on-Sea.

Dawn says she is able to look after Joe in all other respects but admits that walking him is the one thing she can regrettably no longer do and having Anna take care of that gives her peace of mind.

The former dog and cat breeder explains: “I couldn’t possibly be without him, it would break my heart, I’d be lonely. I’m living here with a lot of people but they don’t live with me in my room.

“There’s a lady in the flat opposite me she’s got a rescue Yorkshire Terrier, and she said to me that she couldn’t be without her dog either. Joe’s my life and these dogs are something to get up for – although I never have to get up for Joe as he lays on the bed with me and he never makes a move all night.”

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After her previous dog died two years ago Dawn yearned for another pet for company but felt she couldn’t cope with the responsibility and hard work that goes into rearing a puppy, so adopted Joe, then aged five, from The Dog’s Trust.

She recalls: “I could see as he was trotting over to me and my friend that he was a jaunty little thing, so we sat on a seat and Joe jumps up to be with us. He just snuggled up to me and put his head under my arm and then that was it, I said ‘he’ll do for me’.”

Dawn, who is originally from Yorkshire but has called Kent home since 1949, says the work the Trust already does for her is hugely reassuring as she couldn’t afford to pay a private dog walker.

The former secretarial worker, who has been hospitalised four times due to falling, adds: “It’s just a wonderful thing to know that he’s not going to be stranded, because he was left once when I was taken to hospital with a head injury.”

It was this incident which prompted Dawn’s daughters – one of whom lives in Sussex and the other in France – to suggest the charity might be able to come to her aid on a regular basis.

Anna has been registered as a dog walker with The Cinnamon Trust for six years, having initially volunteered for them while studying for her International Baccalaureate.

She says: “It’s really sad a lot of these people don’t have families who live around here who can help walk the dog regularly so they rely on us – it’s nice to help out.

“A lot of the people I’ve helped just like you to come in and speak to them because they probably haven’t had a conversation with anyone in a while so it’s nice to just sit and chat.”

Anna came across the Trust while researching voluntary dog walking for her sixth-form studies. According to the charity’s website its primary objective is ‘to respect and preserve the treasured relationship between owners and their pets’.

She explains: “You can walk more than one dog and the charity usually emails me when something comes up in my area or if I haven’t heard from them for a while I’ll email them and ask if anyone needs their dog walking.

“They’ll tell me a bit about the dog – its age, what kind of dog it is and then if I’m happy to do it and happy travelling to where they live, they will pass on the person’s details and I’ll go and meet them and we will work from there.”

Anna, who studies Philosophy at the University of Kent at Canterbury and lives at home in Margate, believes it is really important for the elderly to keep their pets for as long as possible.

She says: “My grandma is by herself now and our family go to see her but if people don’t have that and if they don’t have animals they can get lonely.

“Although my grandad died our family are really close and it makes me realise that other people whose dogs I am walking may not have that luxury – they are on their own a lot of time.”

Anna says dog walking has also improved her fitness and she and Joe recently enjoyed an outing along the coast from Birchington-on-Sea to Minnis Bay and back.

“So far, the majority of dogs I have walked have either been in Margate or Birchington and that’s handy, because as soon as I go to see my grandma, who also lives in Birchington, more often than not I’ll give Dawn a ring and ask her if she wants me to walk Joe too,” she explains.

Dawn admits she misses the dog walks, especially from Minnis Bay to Reculver Towers, but is glad to have Joe in her life, who makes her laugh every day.

“Everybody loves him , he’s just lovely. Where I lived before, he had a fan club – when I used to walk him down to the seafront people used to say ‘Oh it’s Joe, hello Joe’ - they used to shout it from their balconies. He’s super, he really is.”

The Cinnamon Trust

• National charity for people in their last years and their much loved, much needed companion animals.

•Provides a network of 15,000 volunteers providing care for their pets, keeping them together; walking dogs for housebound owners, fostering pets when owners need hospital care, fetching food or cleaning out the bird cage, etc.

• When staying at home is no longer an option, the charity’s Pet Friendly Care Home Register lists care homes and retirement housing happy to accept residents with pets.

• Providing previous arrangements have been made the charity will take on life time care of a bereaved pet.

• The Cinnamon Trust helps 32,142 people a year with 41,342 animals and runs two home from home sanctuaries.

For more information visit

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