A Kielder Dog Walk supported by 133 dog lovers including Newcastle Falcon and Tongan International Opeti Fonua took place at the weekend to raise funds and awareness of Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs – the regions only charity to visit the elderly and vulnerable in their own home.

Wag and Company founded by Diane Morton, retired group HR director for Northumbrian Water that also hosted the event, was inspired to set up the charity in 2016 after volunteering for Northumbrian Water in care homes and later experiencing her late father with dementia who was greatly comforted by visits from her own dog Harry.

Diane said: Its wonderful that weve had support from so many people for this event including Sheila Moody a recipient of one of our Wag & Company home visiting teams in Durham and also Newcastle Falcons star Opeti Fonua who heard about us through one of our  partners, Blackett Walker.

In a little over a year since we launched the charity we now have over 102  approved volunteer Wag Teams who visit the elderly at home, in care homes, in dementia programmes and hospitals. They have made nearly 9,000 successful visits from Belford to Yarm and everywhere in between and we are well on our way to reaching our target of 500 volunteers by 2021.

We watched my father deal with vascular dementia over a number of years. It was heart breaking but the relationship he developed with our Labrador Harry, who visited the nursing home with me, was beautiful and really special.Dad didnt know who I was but he knew Harry by name.

The charity is always looking for dog owners to volunteer their time and visit the elderly and vulnerable in the region some who have become isolated and lonely without friends and in some cases without family nearby either.

Wag and Companys first approved volunteer Diane Snowsill, a retired events manager for Sport England visits Sheila Moody an 88 year old pensioner who lives in Sherburn village near Durham with her dog Eddie the lurcher; both were at Kielder to lend their support.

Diane Snowsill said: Eddie and I have been visiting Sheila for the last year and she has formed an incredible bond with both me and Eddie. She lives in isolation having lost her husband a couple of years ago and I know the visits are very important to her which is why we thought it would be wonderful to have her come to Kielder and start the walk by cutting the ribbon.

Sheila Moody said: Diane and Eddies visit is the highlight of my week I am unable to get out of the house anymore due to and various other conditions which means although I am dog lover I can no longer keep one myself. I dont know what I would have done without Eddie and Diane its been a huge source of support and has helped me maintain my independence.

Richard Blackett director of wealth managers Blackett Walker a corporate partner and a volunteer marshall at the event said: You expect people to slow down when they retire but Diane Morton was very driven by the special relationship her father with dementia had developed with her own dog and she wanted to make sure that other people in our own region could benefit from a visiting dog even if they were still in their own homes.  I think its wonderful that some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in the region benefit from a visit with mans best friend.

To sign up and be a volunteer with Wag and Company is simple.

Complete an application form online http://www.wagandcompany.co.uk/volunteer/volunteer-now/, followed by an assessment process which ensures both the volunteer and the dog are suitable and includes Enhanced DBS checks.