Volunteer of the Month - June 2024 - Dawn Rance

Posted by Victoria Leedham

Dawn Rance, from Buckinghamshire, is simply one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has the luck that she lives nearby, and the honour that she decided to join our volunteer family some six years ago, initially as a short-term dog care volunteer, stating “I love dogs, but could not commit to having one full-time, so this role would be ideal for me!”

How that was set to change as the years have passed, and one extra-special dog called Ruby wove her way into Dawn’s home and heart. And whilst volunteering with Hearing Dogs was once complementary to Dawn’s lifestyle and many interests (like choirs, ceilidhs and close friends), we’re aware that the organisation has also drawn her further and further in!

And how could we resist! Dawn is perceptive, generous and kind. Someone who has graced Hearing Dogs with her amiability and warmth, her sensitive nature being appreciated by both the pups lucky enough to have been in her care as much as the staff and fellow volunteers who adore her company.

Whilst short-term dog care sounded “just the sort of thing I’d love to do!” when Dawn signed up in 2018, we are hugely appreciative of how open-minded and accommodating she has been to the changing needs of the charity since then. Dawn also quickly captured the wider picture; becoming involved in and supporting the multitude of fundraising initiatives, plus social gatherings and events, that take place throughout the year.

Pups like Oreo, Penny, Digby, Monty and Joey all enjoyed temporary stays with Dawn, as she quickly became a go-to volunteer. Her name becoming synonymous with the best type of short-term volunteer – happy to help when she could, clear about when she wasn’t available, and always a pleasure to communicate with.

During this time, Dawn gained a lot of experience and knowledge looking after many dogs of different ages and breeds, for varied lengths of time, upskilling with each new house guest be their stay for a day, week, month, or longer.

Then the Covid pandemic arrived. Dawn was one of the first to reach out and offer her support, and as short-term care organically turned into semi-permanent residence, black Spaniel puppy Tara made herself at home as Dawn’s lockdown companion and trainee from March 2020.

Dawn proved herself to be incredibly adaptable and understanding as Hearing Dogs navigated its way through new protocols and procedures necessitated by the pandemic. She committed to Tara’s training, and worked with us to ensure the best outcome for one of our exceptional ‘lockdown puppies’ through video calls, virtual training and a commitment to doing her best in unprecedented circumstances – such as sitting in the drive and running the engine in order to acclimatise Tara to car ‘travel’.

Tara successfully became a fully qualified working hearing dog, and – fast forward to March 2022 - a beautiful orange roan Show Cocker Spaniel named Ruby became Dawn’s next protegee.

This was no small undertaking as a volunteer puppy trainer, as Ruby was the ‘poster pup’ of Hearing Dogs’ 40th anniversary fundraising appeal and celebrations. It would have been impossible for Dawn not to feel some pressure to succeed, not to mention the added expectation of photos, ‘pupdates', content for social media and printed publications, as well as personal appearances!

If Dawn was ruffled, she definitely didn’t show it, and it became evident that we had a match made in heaven which only got stronger when Ruby was accepted into the breeding scheme and Dawn agreed to continue as her forever fosterer.

Puppy Supply Supervisor, Emma Harbour, describes Dawn as “incredibly passionate and committed” to her latest volunteer role, and that she excelled rearing Ruby's first litter of five - Frankie, Berry, Marley, Chrissie and Spirit - born just before Christmas last year.

Emma continues: “Puppy delivery times are exciting, however there can also be much uncertainty, trepidation and waiting as it’s impossible to predict exactly when a brood will give birth. With Ruby, her first-born puppy Chrissie arrived promptly meaning Dawn delivered her herself which was a truly magical moment.

The eight weeks the puppies remain with their mum flew by! Dawn took all the litter rearing competently in her stride and is looking forward to doing it all again with Ruby's second litter next year.”

Darcy Power, Dog Trainer, says: “Nothing is too much trouble for Dawn. Even though she’s officially moved departments from training to breeding, she’s always up for lending a hand; be that helping me demonstrate to visitors what our dogs do or kindly buddying up with other volunteers looking for company or an understanding ear.

Dawn is a pleasure to work with, and it’s always lovely to see her on site and catch up over a cup of tea. She also graciously hosts me in her home for puppy ‘squishes’!”

Dawn not only supports Hearing Dogs through her numerous hands-on volunteer roles with our puppies and dogs, she also gives generously of her time to all sorts of other activity including sitting on our Awards Team Committee, attending in-person initiatives like the Pets at Home Summer of Fundraising and Paws Appeal, as well as publicly promoting the charity online. Claire Newton, Head of Individual Giving, explains:

“We are so grateful for the support of volunteers like Dawn, who are kind enough to be the public face of some of our puppy sponsorship campaigns. Dawn was part of this year’s Mother’s Day promotion and helped to give an all-important boost to puppy sponsorship recruitment. 2024’s campaign was a great success, more than doubling the number of sponsors recruited in a similar promotion last year.”

Dawn is such a wonderful person and upholder of the charity’s values of kindness, courage and professionalism. She also has a fabulous twinkle in her eye and ready humour, which extends to her social media presence where she shares amusing anecdotes of Ruby’s life.

Creative writing is a forte of Dawn’s; her posts make people smile and her positivity radiates outwards, thereby attracting potential new volunteers to follow in her down-to-earth, well-judged and friendly footsteps.

From dipping her toe in with the charity back in 2018, Emma would now describe Dawn as “oozing everything Hearing Dogs!” We are truly thankful that she enquired about volunteering and for everything that has come since. Dawn is a superb asset and dream volunteer; together with Ruby they’re precious gems and shining lights of our organisation.

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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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