Volunteer of the Month - July 2023 - Karen Davison
Posted by Victoria Leedham
Karen Davison from Sunderland signed up as one of our first volunteer puppy trainers in the North East in 2017. Not long after, she started making snuffle mats and raggers (involving the local Brownie and Guide groups she led) which also makes her one of our very first microvolunteers!
Friend, Support Volunteer and Teacher, Sarah Aitken, was one of those Brownies:
“I first met Karen when I was a Brownie; she has always been such a role model. Karen is the kindest, most genuine person you will meet, always wanting to help others. This is shown with everything she does including all her volunteering, both with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and other organisations like the local church and running groups.”
Ailsa Ramage, Senior Dog Trainer, agrees: “As well as volunteering with Hearing Dogs, Karen has been a longstanding Girlguiding leader. She would often take ambassador dog Bruno along to the meetings and he enjoyed joining in with all the activities with the children, particularly those who were a little shyer. He helped to bring them out of their shell, little by little, and provided a link to the others.
Karen is also heavily involved with her local church, again Bruno tags along and meets and greets all the attendees. He’s rather popular!”
We estimate that Karen has made well in excess of 100 snuffle mats that have been shared widely to hearing dog trainees around the country, however Dog Training Instructor, Margaret Pearson, knows that craft endeavours are just one of her many talents:
“Karen is committed to the Hearing Dogs cause in lots of ways, including her outstanding snuffle mats! She is a willing supporter of Team North East's fundraising events and group activities, has a great sense of humour and is lovely to have around. Karen and Ambassador Bruno really do make a fabulous team; we are very lucky to have them representing the Charity.”
“Karen regularly brings Ambassador Bruno along to fundraising events in the North East, meet and greets like our ‘Summer of Fundraising’ partnership with Pets at Home, and other engagements like wellbeing sessions at Durham University to help showcase and raise awareness of Hearing Dogs. She is always positive, ‘nothing’s a bother!’ and she engages the public with easy good humour.
Karen also gives her time to nurturing the next generation of hearing dogs. She brings Bruno along to meet some of the younger dogs in training where he provides a calming influence and wise encouragement, for example helping one young trainee conquer their fear of lifts by breezily walking in showing there’s nothing to be scared of.
Bruno also enjoys having a bit of a scamp around off lead with the youngsters but remains calm and helps them self-regulate so they don’t become too boisterous, otherwise he ignores them, thereby teaching by example how to manage social interactions with older dogs.
Even during Lockdown, Karen and Bruno, kept busy and adapted well to online training. In fact, Bruno acquired so many new skills via video call (tidying his toys away, walking backwards, picking up and delivering dropped keys, to name but a few!) his CV was positively bursting!”
Karen is a very caring person, with a professional background in healthcare which has been a blessing to the Charity given Bruno’s unfortunate, reoccurring medical problems. Karen really has been exemplary in providing a wonderful level care for him, including many - sometimes monthly - trips to the vet, and importantly keeping our own Welfare Team informed throughout. She understands Bruno so well, she is able to identify small flags which mean we can quickly arrange medication to prevent flare ups from occurring.
Sarah sees this relationship first hand: “Karen and Bruno share the most special bond you could imagine. He has literally changed her life: he is more than just a dog, he is her best friend. I honestly believe they were destined to find each other. They have helped one another in more ways than they know, and it’s such a lovely relationship to see.”
Hearing Dogs would like to acknowledge this special little team and thank Karen for all her generous volunteering and consistent care for Ambassador Dog Bruno. The two of them make such a super partnership in the North East, perfectly representing the Charity’s purpose and values.
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