I recently established a "partner charity" relationship with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK) and will be working closely with the local Solihull branch. I attended the May branch meeting where I met a very special lady called Janet and she asked me to draw a portrait of her beloved Becca. Jan is a lovely lady and I wanted to share a little bit about her and her devotion to the charity.
Jan started her volunteering role with Guide Dogs as a Puppy Walker in 1976 after seeing a feature about it on Blue Peter! Puppy Walkers play a vital role in the early socialisation and education of guide dogs. At about seven weeks of age, puppies start their early training, remaining with their puppy walker until between 12-16 months of age. They then head off to a training centre to begin their specialised training. Jan performed the Puppy Walking role with 9 dogs over a 10 year period. One of the dogs, Una a Collie Cross, was rejected for further training and Jan kept her as a pet.
Jan was also "mum" to three Golden Retriever brood bitches and one Curly Coated Retriever brood bitch called Becca. Jan received Becca at 15 months old; when she was brought to her house Jan and her husband Roy had quite a surprise... Becca was a big dog and Jan recalls Roy's memorable exclamation of "Goodness, you could put a saddle on that!" when Becca jumped out of the car.
Jan had Becca for 12 years and in that time Becca had four litters and at six weeks each brood of puppies went off to the Guide Dogs training centre with the hope that they would become guide dogs. Very sadly, Becca passed away on 25th March 2019. Jan describes Becca as having been a loving and protective dog with a stubborn streak and a wonderful mum to all of her puppies. One of Jan and Becca's claims to fame is that one of Becca's puppies called "Cosby" became Lord David Blunkett's guide dog. Cosby assisted Lord Blunkett from 2011 to 2017 and they had a very special bond. You can search for the story online and read about Lord Blunkett's love for and gratitude to Cosby who sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of seven.
Jan has supported the Guide Dogs charity for many years - forty three in fact! Jan has been a volunteer fundraiser throughout this period and is best known for the annual Line Dancing which she organises - a popular event which has been going strong for twenty years. Over two hundred people attend the evening and it is a fantastic fundraiser for the charity. Upon meeting Jan, it was clear to me that she is a very special lady with a love of dogs. She has performed her volunteering role alongside her busy and demanding job as a carer which she retired from at the age of 71. Jan's contribution to the charity is outstanding and her ongoing passion shines through. I was honoured to be asked to draw Becca's portrait and am grateful to have met such a wonderful lady. I can't wait to attend the next line dancing event which is scheduled to take place in February next year! Jan has promised to show me her best moves!