Andy (67) and Judy Muchall (68) from Formby in Merseyside are volunteer puppy socialisers for Dogs for Good. Now on their fifth puppy – Delta – the couple have been providing care, guidance and importantly, plenty of cuddles to Dogs for Good puppies for five years.
It all started when Judy, as President of the Inner Wheel Ladies Volunteer Organisation, organised a few talks for members. “One of the speakers was from Dogs for Good and he came along with a Labrador and talked about all the amazing things that the charity does – including the volunteer roles,” says Judy. “I’d just retired and Andy and I were thinking of getting a dog so puppy socialising sounded like it could not only provide us with the ‘dog fix’ we were after but it would enable us to do something really fulfilling and potentially life-changing for someone with a disability. We got some information and never looked back.”
At five months old, beautiful black Labrador, Delta is Judy and Andy’s fifth puppy and is also known as one of the couple’s ‘hairy grandchildren’ being the daughter of the very first puppy they socialised, Yara. While most pups go on to become qualified assistance dogs, Yara’s kind and nurturing nature, excellent pedigree and health record saw her future best suited to being a puppy mum as part of Dogs for Good’s own breeding programme. Delta is from Yara’s third litter of puppies and is one of five puppies sponsored by MORE THAN.
The couple also have an older puppy, Dixie, who will, like Yara, go on to be a puppy mum for Dogs for Good. “This is the second time we’ve had two dogs at the same time and we really like it! They’re such good fun to take for walks and they do help each other out – Delta definitely learns a lot from Dixie” says Judy.
A wide variety of roles is another thing that attracted Judy and Andy to become Dogs for Good volunteers. “One of the things we really liked was that we could also do other volunteering work for the charity, such as delivering talks and fundraising etc.” says Andy.
The couple share their home with their pet cats which is something that’s viewed as a positive at Dogs for Good. “When we’re out delivering talks for the charity, people say to us ‘oh, we can’t do that because we’ve got a cat’ so it’s great to be able to say that, depending on the dog of course, having cats isn’t a problem. In fact, the charity like it if socialisers have other pets to get the dogs used to sharing a home with them because their future owners may already have other pets.”
Both Judy and Andy are agreed that with the talks they deliver, the dogs speak for themselves. “In my opinion, the dogs really are the best ambassadors for the charity,” says Andy. “People are amazed by what they can do and the way they’re trained. Even when they’re still quite young, they can still do some very clever things and it helps people to see how helpful they can go on to become for someone with a disability. These clever dogs are trained to open and close doors, load and unload the washing machine, help people on and off with clothing, pick up dropped items, nudge access buttons … so many things which can go on to change someone’s life for the good.”
Something that Dogs for Good puppy socialisers hear almost daily is ‘but how can you let them go?’. “It’s not nice,” says Judy. “It’s like sending your child off to University, but at the same time you know that they’re going on to change someone’s life and it makes you proud to know that you were an important part in making that happen.
“Hearing how the dogs can help in a practical way is something I never tire of,” continues Judy. “In the talks I do, I’ll often tell the story of a young man, who was newly married and had an accident which left him a quadriplegic. His Dogs for Good assistance dog meant he could live his life without a carer and he and his wife could claim back some kind of normality and privacy.”
Volunteering for Dogs for Good also gave Andy and Judy a whole new group of people to socialise with as well as lots of things to do and activities to take part in. “We get so much support from the charity, the trainers and also all the other volunteers,” says Andy. “We’ve done loads of events and even been into the show ring at Crufts!”
Andy and Judy’s enthusiasm for what they do is infectious. So much so that they’ve helped to recruit four more people to become volunteer puppy socialisers.
“We’re really proud to be part of such a fantastic charity and I don’t really see us stopping doing this any time soon,” says Andy. “When we’re out and about people say we do a fantastic job and that we’re great etc. but we don’t really see it in that way. We like to volunteer and do something with our time and we like to give back because we’ve had such full lives ourselves.
We enjoy the dogs and we get so much out of it ourselves.”
Every year we receive over 5,000 enquiries from people who hope an Assistance Dog, Community Dog or Family Dog can change their life. Find out how sponsoring one of our puppies could make a huge difference to someone with a disability.