Volunteer of the Month - February 2020 - Catherine Steyn

Posted by Victoria Leedham

Catherine Steyn is a real all-rounder! Living in Edinburgh, she was one of the first people to sign up when our Volunteer Puppy Training Scheme was launched there just over five years ago, and she has enthusiastically and proactively supported Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in Scotland ever since.

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Having hearing loss herself, Hearing Dogs is close to Cathy’s heart and she is personally attuned to our vision of seeing a time when no deaf person feels alone.

Ailsa Ramage, Senior Dog Trainer, says: “Cathy is a very sociable and popular person. She is involved in lots of activities and has many interests. She’s a vibrant woman who is both artistic and tech savvy. She’s one of the leading lights of the Hearing Dogs community in Edinburgh and, as someone with boundless energy and huge amounts of empathy, she even finds time to support other charities as well.”

Fellow volunteer, Judith Holmes, tells us more: “Cathy joined Hearing Dogs about five years ago and has trained two puppies full time, both Spaniels, the first was Evita and the second was Inca. She now regularly does holiday cover and is also active as a Volunteer Speaker giving talks to various groups to raise awareness of the charity. Cathy is always proactive when we have fundraising events and is very supportive of all the various activities, often selling merchandise and using her talents as an artist to repurpose old calendars and publications into framed pictures and greetings cards.”

Cathy’s warm and happy personality makes it a lot of fun for everyone to work with and volunteer alongside her, and she lights up any room where she is booked to be a speaker. Her talks are enjoyed by adults and children alike, and she fills them full of personal experience and amusing stories about the dogs she’s looked after and trained.

Lisa Henschel, Puppy Trainer Instructor, recounts: “Cathy is always spreading the word! Whether she is putting up posters at local venues or meeting people out and about, she always finds a way to positively mention Hearing Dogs and raise our profile.”

“She’s someone who I can rely on to help out with short term puppy care whenever needed, and I should also mention that she has three fabulous cats who are also involved with Hearing Dogs training. Thanks to Evita and Inca, the trio are used to young dogs, so Cathy is happy to welcome other puppies as part of their life experience training sessions - in fact the cats have become so used to Hearing Dogs methods they practically show the pups what to do when the doorbell rings!”

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Cathy can feel righty proud of the two dogs that she’s cared for the longest and taken through their early stage training. Evita went on to be one of the fabulous few picked out to be a hearing dog  mum as her lifetime fosterer Sarah Law can testify: "We absolutely adore our breeding dog Evita; when she arrived with us, it was very clear that she had been extremely well socialised - she's amazing with all dogs, people and experiences - nothing phases her - and that's got to be down in big part to the role that Catherine played in those formative months."

Inca lives with his partner Martin who has been profoundly deaf all his life. He recounts that he was brought up to deal with his deafness as ‘just one of those things’, so appeared quite confident whilst the reality was the opposite and social situations were often best avoided. With Hearing Dog Inca by his side, life is now very different indeed and he has never known so many people want to talk to him!

By volunteering for Hearing Dogs in so many generous ways, Cathy directly helps deaf people leave loneliness behind and reconnect with life. Martin, in particular, could not be more grateful. He says that you “never forget a good teacher” and hopes to reunite Inca with Cathy sometime soon to say thank you in person.

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About the author

Victoria Leedham

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

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