The founder of the UK’s only dog befriending charity has received Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s daily Points of Light award.
Based in the North East, Wag and Company tackles loneliness and isolation among older and vulnerable people in the region.
Diane Morton, from Hexham, founded the charity with her husband Doug, following their own experiences as volunteers, and with Diane’s father, who dealt with vascular dementia for many years but who always remembered her Labrador Harry.
Aware that other charities offering dog visiting services were unable to visit older people in their own homes, and knowing from first-hand experience the difference a dog could make to personal wellbeing, they launched ‘Wag and Company’ in May 2016.
It is now supported by a network of over 411 volunteers with friendship dogs, who are benefitting thousands of elderly dog lovers across the North East, many of whom face health issues, are bereaved and isolated, and unable to look after a dog on their own. The charity has made almost 75,000 visits to date and during lockdown and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the charity continues to support their elderly friends in a variety of creative ways, including virtual sessions.
In a personal letter to Diane, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I was inspired to hear how you have harnessed hundreds of dogs to provide companionship for more than three thousand elderly people across the North East.
“Your ‘Wag teams’ have accomplished a staggering 70,000 befriending visits and I am delighted that in this period where we have been fighting Coronavirus you have continued to provide comfort to so many through virtual visits.”
Diane is the 1513th person to receive the Prime Minister’s UK daily Points of Light award, which was first launched in April 2014 to recognise outstanding individuals making a difference where they live. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements, including hundreds of volunteers who have been recognised for how they have served their communities through the coronavirus pandemic.
In receiving the award, Diane said: “As a very proud figurehead for over 411 amazing Wag and Company volunteers and their equally special dogs, I’m honoured to accept the Points of Light Award on their behalf.
“It’s really fantastic that the important difference Wag volunteers have been making every day since the pandemic began to older people right across our region, has been recognised in this way.”