Volunteer of the Month - December 2021 - Elizabeth Jones

Posted by Victoria Leedham

The Beatrice Wright Centre in East Yorkshire may be the smaller of Hearing Dogs’ two training centres, however what it lacks in square footage it more than makes up for with the calibre of its local volunteers.

To pick out just one those special people this Christmas, we’d like to shine a light on Elizabeth Jones. Since Elizabeth joined our volunteer family in 2013 she has consistently been known for rolling up her sleeves and getting involved in anything that’s been asked of her in a very practical, willing and quietly accomplished way.

Hayley Simpson, Training Area Manager, first met her during the volunteer application process: “As part of the evaluation I visited Elizabeth and husband Gareth; it was immediately clear what a dog loving home I’d stepped into! Elizabeth already had dog training skills and demonstrated her two pet dogs at the time - Kelpie and Muppet - weaving through her legs and giving high 5's amongst a range of other tricks she'd taught them. Suffice as to say we didn’t hesitate to sign the Jones up swiftly!”

Living so close to the centre, Elizabeth and Gareth immediately became invaluable – happy to collect and drop off dogs-in-training on our Bed & Breakfast scheme and welcoming all sorts of four-pawed visitors at short notice before eventually giving a permanent home to demonstration dog Sally who was looking for experienced handlers.

Hayley continues, “we are so grateful for everything that Elizabeth does for Hearing Dogs and are very lucky to have such a safe pair of hands within our Yorkshire volunteer family. Over the years she’s covered most of our dog care volunteer roles and become an exceptionally competent volunteer puppy and dog trainer. Such is her breadth of experience, we joke that her ‘volunteer roles badge’ needs a lengthy extension!”

“She even recently offered her design and sewing skills to craft some mini bunting for the volunteer noticeboard I was revamping. The results of which were better than anything I could have imagined! It’s had many admiring comments and helps make the site look cared for and cheery.”

Amie North, Yorkshire Hub Area Manager, concurs: “I could wax lyrical about Elizabeth, she is literally a training ninja!  She was so inventive with low impact, but mentally stimulating activities when hearing dog Rodney was resting after having operations on his patellas, one after the other. She taught him to put all his toys away into his toy box as well as adding in shape cues for his obedience work, for example holding up a square piece of paper to indicate a sit. She has the patience of a saint and the only chink in her ability is that she does not give herself enough credit for how brilliant she is!”

Despite not being someone who desires the limelight, it’s admirable that Elizabeth pushes her own boundaries when it’s something to support her favourite charity. During volunteer recruitment events she confidently speaks to the public (and who better to explain the ins and outs of every role from B&B to training from home, from fostering to holiday cover, from volunteer puppy training all the way through to volunteer dog training!), and she has also supplied copy for online articles including our own #VolunteerVoices during Volunteers’ Week this year describing her own personal experience:

"Volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has always been important to me in whatever role I have taken on. In the last year it has been an especially integral part of my life because it has given me something positive to focus on during these dark times. Throughout the various lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve experienced loneliness and isolation, just like many deaf people do, but my trainee William was my ‘Superdog’ companion throughout.”

William is currently sharing the Jones home with latest recruit Elsie. Before them was the exceptionally memorable Rodney who, in Elizabeth’s own words, “taught me more than I ever taught him”.

Now in placement as a working assistance dog, there can be no one better than Rodney’s deaf partner Richard Herrington to describe the lasting impact of Elizabeth’s volunteering. Here’s his Christmas message:

“In your introductory letter, when you handed over Rodney for what you hoped would be his forever placement home, you said how he had worked his very own special magic and helped you through a difficult time.

By coincidence Rodney came into my life on the exact first anniversary (in February 2020) of the sudden tragic loss of my first hearing dog Dillon, and after a very traumatic and difficult year on my own.

Little did we know that just over three weeks later, the world would be plunged into lockdown, with isolation, social distancing and mandatory mask wearing a challenging time for everyone, but especially difficult for someone profoundly deaf like myself.

Again, Rodney was to work his special magic. Not only fulfilling his hearing dog duty of alerting me to all the sounds he had been trained for, but providing companionship and a reason to get up in the morning, when depression was again knocking at my door. Without him I wouldn’t have survived lockdown and I owe a massive thank you to everyone who played a part in matching him with me. He encouraged me to go out each day when the world seemed a very scary and alien place, wearing his burgundy jacket with pride, he is one very special dog indeed.

Elizabeth, it is people like you that nurture, train and then with personal sacrifice and heartbreak, pass on these amazing dogs to fulfil the lives of total strangers. I am so glad that we are in touch, and I intend to pass on news of our continuing journey together. It was lovely to meet you this summer and put a face to the person and family that played such a huge part in my hearing dog becoming the exceptional dog he is.

On behalf of all placements, thank you for the work you do in caring for, loving and training these dogs; without you we simply wouldn’t have these amazing life changers in our lives.”

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About the author

Victoria Leedham

Hello, I'm Victoria and Head of Volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Hearing Link. It’s my privilege to celebrate and share stories about our wonderful volunteer family.

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