Volunteers' Week 2021 - Day 6
Posted by Victoria Leedham
To celebrate #VolunteersWeek 2021 we asked a few volunteers to reflect on the past year and let us know what it's been like to volunteer during a pandemic.
Today's #VolunteerVoice is Volunteer Puppy Trainer Elizabeth Jones....
How important has your volunteering been to you in the last year?
"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 integral part of my life because it has given me something positive to focus on during these dark times.
How has your volunteering changed since the first lockdown?
The most dramatic change in my role as a volunteer puppy trainer was that all the face-to-face contact ceased, and virtual puppy classes became the norm. For a technophobe this did cause some stress, not least when my hearing dog trainee William put his paws on my keyboard and rotated the screen orientation through 90 degrees during a puppy class!
What have you learnt from the changes?
I have learned how to access Microsoft Teams and the charity's own Pawtal, and to reverse the effects of William’s not so helpful paws! I am still not a computer whizz and cannot make the “magic” happen as quickly as my son, but I can now use it to gain or pass on information about my trainee and share anecdotes with other volunteers without going into meltdown.
I think the most important thing I have learnt is to apply the principles of the '5Rs' training techniques to myself. I have learnt about the importance of routine, relationships (both dogs and people), responsibility, resilience and the reward is that I am a stronger person and I have a trainee who is well on his way to his Hearing Dog Assessment.
If any parts of your volunteering have been on hold, have you missed it or has the time gained been valuable?
I have missed puppy classes and seeing the other volunteers and their dogs - watching them develop and change as the weeks go by. I had my first 'real life' puppy class again recently and it made me realised just how much I had missed the social contact.
On the flip side, time away from puppy classes and other out-and-about aspects of training, has given me the chance to develop a closer relationship with William and allow him to progress at the slower pace he needed to become the competent and confident dog he is now.
If you have been looking after a hearing dog mum, dad or trainee, have they been a welcome distraction from what’s been going on?
William has definitely been a welcome member of the household during the last year. He came to me just before the first lockdown and was a dog in denial about his potential to wear the Hearing Dogs burgundy jacket. He was 15 months old and struggling to progress through his two star level training.
After having hearing dog Rodney, who taught me more than I ever taught him, William felt like a hopeless case. I can recall saying “this dog will never make a hearing dog”. Well, one very strange year on, and thanks to virtual support and the '5Rs', I am proud to say William is ready for his Hearing Dog Assessment and eventual career.
Reflecting on a "a welcome distraction”... this isn't actually the right word; companion is a better one.
During the various lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve experienced loneliness and isolation, just like many deaf people do, but William was my companion throughout. Thanks William! I could not have done it without you. Well, I probably could, but you just made it more rewarding and fun - you are a Superdog."
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