Volunteer of the Month - October 2021 - Peggy Southgate

Posted by Victoria Leedham

We’re so lucky to have the type of volunteer that you know you can pick the phone up to and they’ll do anything to help if they can, no matter how last minute or how tall the task! 

Peggy Southgate, from Milton Keynes, is exactly that person. She’s been involved with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People for over a decade, juggled her volunteering alongside a demanding work life, had her own home and health issues to deal with, but always shows out for her favourite charity, giving 100%. 

Friend and fellow volunteer Mary Wiles has known Peggy from the beginning: “I have known Peggy for over ten years. We met by chance at a Hearing Dogs meeting not realising that we lived only three miles from one another. I was training Peggy, a black Labrador, and when we went for a walk it was funny as when I called Peggy both turned around!  

Along with husband Mick, Peggy has puppy trained a great many dogs over the years - from their first, Chalky, to most recent, Mollie - she now focuses on holiday cover. Any dogs going to Hotel Southgate will be loved, spoilt and guaranteed a good time. 

Peggy has been a wonderful friend to me and my late husband Eric. Always happy to have any of the hearing dogs I’ve trained, come along on walks and be there when I’ve needed a chat. She is also an invaluable member of the Milton Keynes Fundraising Branch, helped to wrap many hundreds of lucky dips, and stick numbers on our soft toy tombola toys for our fundraising events. Peggy volunteers at our events and is always happy to talk to people and promote Hearing Dogs.”  

Peggy has been instrumental in ‘bringing burgundy back’ as we’ve cautiously emerged from lockdown, was spotted at our Great British Dog Walk at Waddesdon Manor just last month chatting away to the public about the charity, and her sales pitch has always been word perfect when encouraging new people to join at our Volunteer Recruitment Fairs. 

Breeding scheme volunteer and fundraiser Louise Hrycak was warmly welcomed into the fold by Peggy, and they have now become firm friends: “We walk together two or three times a week even when Peggy doesn’t have a dog of her own to look after. To hearing dog mum Nova, she is Auntie Peggy, and she has happily had a couple of lovely holidays in Peggy and Mick’s home. 

I have been a part of the Milton Keynes Fundraising Branch for about three years now. Someone who can always be relied upon to help is Peggy. She has also been a wonderful puppy nanny and great moral support when Nova has had her puppies. 

For me, one of the best things about being involved with Hearing Dogs (apart from Nova of course!) is the friends I have met. Without doubt one of the best has been Peggy.” 

Being a good friend is most definitely a quality that comes naturally to Peggy, volunteer Carole Muddiman continues the theme: “I first met Peggy, together with her husband Mick, through volunteer puppy training classes at Hearing Dogs, and they have since become such lovely friends.  

She always has a memory to share about her life outside of Hearing Dogs which include being a dog groomer, running an outside catering business and working within the prison service. Since retirement she has concentrated single-handedly on doing a consumer test of every café offering tea and cake within a very wide area!  

Her dedication to the Charity is equally great, she has trained numerous puppies, been a stalwart supporter and fundraiser over many years including, in what can only have been a moment of madness, abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower last summer!” 

From perilous adventures in Portsmouth, to embracing our very first virtual coffee afternoon with panache, to her now legendary ‘28 Challenge’ where she decided that exercising was “not really my thing” and instead ate a Lindt chocolate every day in February for sponsorship, Peggy has a good humour about her that radiates kindness. 

North Bucks Area Training Manager, Jay Hrycak, agrees: “Not long ago I called Peggy in a bit of an emergency situation, asking if she could take a dog in 45 minutes for an indefinite amount of time and she simply said 'yes, no bother!’  She is so reliable, keen to help and graciously flexible with the short-term requests that have become her speciality, but that often materialise into longer term arrangements.

With all the unprecedented adjustments we needed to make during the pandemic, I had the pleasure of working directly with Peggy and her most recent hearing dog pup Mollie. I am honoured to have shared this time with her, feel proud to have seen her achieve such incredible results teaching her first sounds and also thoroughly enjoyed our chats over long walks and coffees. Peggy is one of the kindest and most interesting people I have spent time with, and I look forward to many more conversations in the future."

Specialising in Labradors, but happy to welcome any four-pawed visitor, Jinga preceded Mollie in being trained by Peggy and is still very much in her life as Wendy Phelan explains:

“Well what can I say about Peggy? Where do I start! I met Peggy in 2013 through Hearing Dogs as I am deaf and she trained my hearing dog Jinga, aka Princess Jinga. Peggy and I have since become such great friends. It is like we have known one another forever. We speak often and she has a great sense of humour and often, her anecdotes, leave me in fits of giggles. We holiday together and she provides holiday cover for Jinga, although we live more than 200 miles apart.  

I remember when Jinga first arrived Peggy sent with her a beautiful photo album depicting and charting her journey through puppyhood and training. Each photo had a fabulous quip or description, and thanks to Peggy’s thoughtfulness I felt that I knew Jinga and had a great understanding of her personality from the start.   

From a training and socialising perspective with Jinga, Peggy has done an absolutely superb job. I believe that Jinga’s amazing qualities and skills have been enhanced and developed by Peggy and her husband Mick’s approach and personalities. They have a great way with all the dogs they care for, and train them with such love and fun. They are the loveliest couple who would do anything for anyone. Nothing is too much trouble and I know they thoroughly enjoy being a part of the Hearing Dogs family. 

Jinga is such a wonderful dog. She is confident, reassuring, mischievous, loyal (in fact that is how I would also describe Peggy) and above all fulfils all aspects of her role as a hearing dog brilliantly. She has also fitted into my family and work life so well as she has such a sweet, gentle and affectionate character.  

Being in partnership with such an amazing dog as Jinga has been life changing for me. When Jinga and I attend fundraising talks I always end by saying: “If someone were to tell me I could have my hearing restored but I’d have to give Jinga back, my answer is that Jinga is going nowhere!”.   

If you asked me the same about Peggy and that I could have my hearing back but lose my friendship with Peggy, my answer would be I would rather keep my friendship with Peggy. It is a privilege to have met her and her husband Mick, I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me, and here’s to many more years of friendship.”

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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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