Volunteers of the Month - June 2021 - Liz & Bill Barratt
Posted by Victoria Leedham
There’s a very special group of volunteers in our midst who we colloquially call the “Hearing Dogs Lifers!” We definitely don’t force them to stay, but somehow the years pass and before you know it people like Liz & Bill Barratt from Staffordshire have chalked up well over two decades of dedicated volunteering!
Liz & Bill say of themselves: “We started volunteering for selfish reasons initially – to meet lots of dogs. Then we got hooked on the cause, and the rest, as they say, is history! We’ve made lots friends through volunteering, and the pleasure we get from watching a pup learn and develop means we now just can’t help ourselves!”
The couple are currently training their seventeenth hearing dog puppy, a handsome Cockapoo called Remy, however it all started back in the late 1990s with a brown Corgi type rescue dog called Bella. At the time, Hearing Dogs trained all sorts of unusual and mixed breeds so the Barratts’ alumni include Megan a Norwegian Buhund, Eddie a Bichon/Havanese cross Toy Poodle, Buster a Pomeranian cross and most memorably Bali “a real Heinz 57, the dog who left the biggest pawprint on our hearts”.
Whilst our volunteer puppy training scheme has modernised and changed immeasurably since those early days, Liz & Bill’s successful formula has remained constant: Bill is in charge during the day whilst Liz is at work, she then takes over puppy duties in the evening as well as joining workshops and afternoon group sessions when required.
Ruth Turner, Dog Training Instructor, explains: “Liz & Bill are both superb! Bill looks after the puppies in the day, encouraging their early toilet training and walking routine, then Liz comes home from work and trains soundwork and any extra criteria. Weekends are also dedicated to the dog in their care, never missing a training opportunity - like a recent trip to a conservatory showroom that turned into a settling exercise, or when Liz took Rae to her gym and even found a perfect moment to practice a fire alarm alert!”
Rae is a Miniature Poodle who the Barratts very successfully trained from puppy to placement before the arrival of current dog Remy, with whom they have also made amazing progress.
Ruth continues: “Remy has proved to be quite a challenge however thanks to Bill’s daytime care and Liz’s superb training skills, they have transformed him from a dog that was difficult to get back on lead to one who walks to heel and will drop a ball at your feet!”
“They do all the extra training a dog like Remy requires to meet his full potential, as well as keeping helpful records and sharing videos of his progress. Over the wintertime, they were out in wind, rain, hail and snow working on Remy’s self-control and recall, as well as proactively meeting up with fellow volunteer Rob Cooper and his puppy-in-training Eddie to practice around the distraction of another dog.”
“The progress they have made is outstanding. Remy's vocals have reduced greatly, and thanks to the work Liz & Bill have put in, he's passed his four star award and we are able to look at potential matches for him. I really hope they know what a fantastic job they’ve done; volunteer puppy training is not straightforward with a dog like Remy – there’s definitely as many steps back as forward. I’m incredibly thankful Liz & Bill have stuck with him.”
Operations Development Manager, Rebekah Barr, agrees: “I’ve been so impressed with Liz & Bill’s dedication. Bill looks after Remy during the day whilst Liz works and takes up the training during her evenings and weekends, she even uses her annual leave to meet Hearing Dogs staff without question. During the assessment I conducted, I could see that Liz had thought of everything for Remy and the preparation for his future partner. It really was lovely to witness, Remy was super and I can definitely confirm Liz & Bill do an excellent job with their volunteering.”
As well as being very proficient volunteer puppy trainers, Liz & Bill also give their time to fundraising events including a two-hour round trip to help man a stall at Ellesmere in North Shropshire. Their friendly, helpful nature also extends to new volunteers – people frequently remark how welcomed to the group Liz & Bill have made them feel. In fact, two truer, finer, more long-standing ambassadors for volunteering at Hearing Dogs we’d definitely struggle to find!
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