Katherine recounts her journey with Our Special Friends

Ziggy the Shetland Sheepdog and I met Sheila about two years ago when she was living alone in her house in Lawshall. She was most welcoming and we quickly established a rapport, with plenty to chat about and also reminiscing too.

Ziggy enjoyed the attention that Sheila gave him; he’s a very sociable dog, enjoying her stroking and of course, the (rationed!) treats.

Sheila has had a very full life, travelling the world with her late husband Frank who had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. They didn’t allow his physical limitations to curtail their adventures during which they met many people and enjoyed their company. He died 12 years ago, leaving Sheila bereft.

At home they always took in rescue dogs and treated them to the best lives possible, but after the last dog left for the rainbow bridge, Sheila became more lonely.

We appeared on the scene in 2021. Highlights would be to visit a tea room in Long Melford where we were made most welcome, including Ziggy who would sit under our table watching the goings on.

Sheila would do her own shopping and get herself to appointments as most of us do.

About a year ago my right hip became extremely painful and I found it hard to walk any distance including walking Ziggy and my two Border Collies, I’m afraid I had to stop visiting Sheila. I’d keep in touch by phone once a week.

Our Special Friends found another volunteer to visit Sheila occasionally with her little dog .

But the charity also was massively helpful in finding me two fabulous volunteers, Hilary and Ruth, who walked the Collies three or four times a week, as they’re very fit and need the exercise. Ziggy became increasingly lame but with medication, he can manage short walks or rides in his pushchair where he commands operations.

In February I had a total hip replacement and have made a quick recovery so am able to see Sheila with Ziggy again. She has since moved to semi-sheltered accommodation and is settling in gradually. Moving home has been trying for her but she has managed it with the support of others including Our Special Friends.

I believe that Our Special Friends is a unique charity that understands the value of human and animal companionship completely. Volunteers are trained to understand the needs of clients from all perspectives- social, legal, physical and emotional. We also get training in animal welfare and human and animal resuscitation, behaviour and management, among other topics.

I can’t speak highly enough of how well OSF is run, especially during the trying times we’ve all experienced.