Volunteers of the Month - October 2023 - Anne & Malcolm Pickett
Posted by Victoria Leedham
Anne & Malcolm Pickett, from Fleet in Hampshire, are amongst the most well-respected and well-liked members of the entire Hearing Dogs for Deaf People community. They are highly visible as figureheads of our speakers’ presentation, extremely active as members of the North Hants Fundraising Group and - behind the scenes – are involved in all manner of additional volunteer and personal activity, related to the Charity, that helps connect and give purpose to others.
“I have found it quite hard to find the words to cover everything this inspirational couple mean to me” says Sheila Hodge. “Anne has been a massive support, right from the very start of my application process to be matched with my hearing dog Hylton, and continues to be so. The number of messages that she has replied to late at night when my mind was over thinking things, all the fantastic encouragement, reassurance and understanding has been totally amazing. I am so lucky to have had her to call on throughout my journey. Words really cannot express how much she has helped me.
Anne & Malcolm have taken on many roles volunteering for Hearing Dogs over the years, including giving talks, attending fundraising events, growing plants to be sold in aid of funds and even abseiling! They also starred in a video all about how Anne’s hearing dog Tegan has changed not only her life, but Malcolm’s as well. This video still brings a tear to my eye when I see it used at talks, the reaction from people watching it is always lovely to see. They are an inspirational couple and I honestly think I have made true friends for life.”
Eunice Wennberg recalls first meeting Anne in February 2014 when she arrived at The Grange, Hearing Dogs’ headquarters, to start her placement week with her soon-to-be hearing dog:
“Anne drove onto the training site as I was walking along the driveway and stopped the car to ask me directions. I asked her if she was meeting a new dog and she said yes, it was a chocolate Poodle called Tegan. I just happened to be Tegan’s ‘Bed & Breakfast’ volunteer at the time so I said I would meet Anne at lunchtime to swap notes.
Anne and I hit it off immediately and chatted for as long as Anne’s placement week training would allow. Later in the same week I met Malcolm, who happens to be interested in Heritage Railways as is my husband Simon, so it was not long before a beautiful relationship between the four of us was born!
When Anne & Tegan won the Royal Canin Life-Changing Partnership of the Year Award in 2015, we were all absolutely delighted; the award was richly deserved, and Simon and I felt like proud parents when we heard the news! Having Tegan by her side, winning the award, and later being the star of a wonderful video of Anne & Tegan’s story, gave Anne so much confidence (and celebrity!) that she and Malcolm became fantastic fundraisers for the charity, a role they both love doing, especially as it means Anne can show off Tegan to the adoring crowds.
The Pickett trio became so well known by staff, volunteers, and partnerships at Hearing Dogs that whenever Anne & Malcolm visited The Grange, Simon and I had to wait our turn to speak with them!
I know Anne has been a huge help to new partners and become a ‘go-to person’ for support and information. Anne is a hive of knowledge on all things Hearing Dogs and with wonderful, charming Malcolm by her side, together they are volunteer gold!
Simon and I feel so proud of our association with both of them through Tegan. She truly landed on her paws when she was partnered with Anne, and is the most loved Poodle in the world! She is still happy to greet Simon and I after all these years, but she certainly knows where she is best off!”
Gill Lacey, Editor, got to know the couple after Anne & Tegan were nominated for the aforementioned Life-Changing Partnership of the Year Award, and later when she interviewed them at home for the fundraising appeal which featured in Favour spring 2016. Gill recounts: “They are one of the most devoted couples I've had the pleasure to meet... devoted to each other and also to the cause they both love - Hearing Dogs.
Malcolm is ever grateful to Tegan for restoring Anne's confidence, positivity, independence, and wonderful sense of humour. These were the qualities he so admired about Anne when they first met, and he had felt helpless watching his wife's joyful personality slip away after her life-saving surgery.
Malcolm says Tegan gave him back the wonderful woman he fell in love with. He candidly led the fundraising appeal by revealing: ‘I have seen the devastating impact of hearing loss on my wife, Anne. It made communication hard, and the isolation cut her off from family and friends. Then she learned she had been accepted for a hearing dog. From that moment Anne started to feel better. She had hope for the future – and that’s the inspiration for our appeal. We want to raise £25,000 to help train another hearing dog like Tegan. This will give another deaf person like Anne that precious place on the list for a hearing dog – a little bit of hope; something that will help them to feel more positive about their future.’"
Clearly, Anne & Malcolm have personally raised several thousands since becoming registered volunteers in 2014, however it’s certainly not all about the spotlight. They support national initiatives such as the Pets at Home Summer of Fundraising and are equally at home as part of the North Hants Fundraising Group fold.
Group lead, Irene Rich, recalls: “I first met Anne a couple of months before she got Tegan; she was very quiet and a bit withdrawn but on the first Monday after her placement week I bumped into her in our High Street and the difference was amazing! She was smiling, chatty and full of confidence and has been a willing member of our fundraising group ever since.
Nearly a decade later and Anne & Malcolm are always happy to come along to any fundraising events we have; their help and perspective is invaluable in spreading the word about Hearing Dogs.”
Tania & Keith Leman also met the Picketts through the North Hants Fundraising Group: “We came together through our shared commitment to the charity, however the fundraising soon led to social outings (including our now legendary new year’s beach barbeque and dog walk), and we have since become good friends.
Tegan is well known in their local community; Waitrose has for several years donated to Hearing Dogs through their green token scheme, and there is a collection box in their local pet store which is of course kindly coordinated by Anne & Malcolm.
They are both superb representatives of Hearing Dogs as they are always willing to speak about what Tegan does – not only for Anne, but the difference she has made to Malcolm and their whole family.
Together, they do many, many talks wherever they are needed in order to spread the word about Hearing Dogs and how Tegan has improved their lives. They have taken the time, and made a particular connection with Volunteer Puppy Trainers in their area, to explain how a partnership works in order to help those volunteers when it comes to their trainees moving on.”
Dog Training Instructor, Jackie Avery, continues: “I first met Anne, Malcolm & Tegan when I started my employment with Hearing Dogs and attended an event they were at.
I thought it would be great for my volunteers to hear about how Hearing Dogs operates as a whole, plus a bonus to meet a working partnership, so invited them to give a talk in Hook about the wider reach and outcome of what volunteering is about. Believe me - some volunteers still talk about the talk now, nearly 5 years on!
I have also asked them to allow me and some trainee dogs to attend their public speaking engagements over the years for ‘match specific checks’. They're always so accommodating, particularly if said trainee is a Poodle!”
Volunteering for Hearing Dogs is so ingrained in Anne & Malcolm’s psyche that they probably don’t even realise that ‘Team Tegan’ is giving back a million-fold even when they’re not officially on duty: they encourage others to volunteer; “Anne shares great photos of the beautiful Tegan on Twitter, and is a brilliant and popular advocate of Hearing Dogs on social media,” says Matt Sadler, Social Media & PR Executive; and perhaps the only time we nearly broke them was when Malcolm was coerced into dressing up in a dog costume to publicise the Great British Dog Walk at Beale Park a few years back!
“Literally nothing is ever too much trouble for Anne & Malcolm” confirms Lucy Dickinson, Partnership Instructor. “They are well liked and well known locally, with Tegan always there by Anne’s side; her little burgundy jacket a signal of an otherwise hidden disability. Come rain or shine, they are always forthcoming to represent Hearing Dogs and explain how much of a difference Tegan has made to their lives.
Since being placed with Tegan, Anne has made a big effort to make sure local shops (as well as others further afield) are displaying the correct signage regarding access for all Assistance Dogs. It’s perhaps a small thing, but an important one.”
Nicholas Orpin, Service Delivery Manager, concludes: “If you said that Anne & Malcolm are quite simply brilliant volunteers, they wouldn’t know what you are talking about. In the years I have known them, they have been engaging and patient with everyone they speak to. They are helpful and encouraging without sugar-coating life with hearing loss and how that affects family and social situations. If you mentioned how good they are with people, they would think ‘isn’t everyone like that?’. Well, no, not everyone. They are special and unique, and a credit to our whole organisation.”
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