A HEXHAM charity which reduces isolation and improves the wellbeing of older and vulnerable people through dog visits is joining funded projects throughout the UK to highlight stories of animals coming together with humans to make their lives better.

Yesterday was World Animal Day (October 4) - an annual event which aims to raise the status of animals around the world.

The National Lottery, through its projects and charities, is putting its best paw forward to help people in need across the country.

National Lottery funding goes towards a wide range of animal related projects – from city and community farms; funding the training of rescue dogs that help emergency services during natural disasters; projects that support people with disabilities and behavioural issues; and projects that provide animal assisted therapy – to support people and improve their wellbeing.

With the support of over £200,000 from The National Lottery, the Wag and Company charity has been able to fund its home visiting service.

The charity was launched in May 2016 by chair and operations director, Diane Morton. The service has since thrived, with over 76,763 friend visits since its conception.

Diane, who lives in Slaley, said: “Alzheimer’s in older dog lovers is something I feel very personally about. My dad had Vascular Dementia and he didn't know me, but he knew my black Labrador Harry.

“He used to call him by his name and he knew what to do with a silky head in his lap, he knew how to cuddle him when he didn’t know how to use all sorts of things functionally - a comb or a toothbrush for instance.

“I think it’s because it came from his heart - he didn’t have to use his head to feel or show love for a dog when he’d always loved one.

“It's the love of a dog that people have in common, and it comes from your heart. You can share that emotional connection with the people we visit to the volunteers.

“It can result in the most priceless and precious relationships that exist for a lifetime.”

Wag and Company, as the only visiting dog charity befriending older people in their own homes as well as in care or medical establishments, desperately needs funding and volunteer dog owners to safely befriend elderly dog lovers across the North-East.

Now with 3,261 people benefitting from its work and 409 volunteers, the funding from The National Lottery has proved vital in helping Wag run smoothly, especially throughout the pandemic.

Diane added: “I'm a volunteer but we have to have paid staff in the office, and keep our systems really slick and efficient, and being able to minimise our admin costs but maintaining our standards at the same time was really critical. The National Lottery enabled that – they’ve been transformational for us.”

David Knott, interim CEO at The National Lottery Community Fund, explains: “Thanks to National Lottery players, these projects and the incredible animals they work with are changing people’s lives."

“Whether helping to improve mental health, reduce loneliness or providing a physical support, they are boosting people’s wellbeing and confidence so that they can better prosper and thrive.”

To find out more about how The National Lottery supports good causes throughout the UK, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk