Dogs are said to be man’s best friend but a couple have made sure they’re the best friends any assistance dog can have.
Denise and John Taylor, affectionately known as Team Taylor, have spent nearly 10 years working tirelessly for three charities – Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Canine Partners and Medical Detection Dogs.
But 2016 is set to be a big year, as after a decade raising money they will finally retire.
Their story started in 2007 when Denise was walking her Welsh terrier and spotted a woman walking a dog wearing a distinctive red jacket. When she got chatting to the recipient, as they are known, Denise learned about the work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and the amazing things a hearing dog can do.
Denise was so inspired by that encounter, she decided to raise funds for the charity and her long association with them began.
Persuaded to initially become a speaker with the aim of raising awareness, it wasn’t long before Denise was taking holiday from her job to dedicate more and more of her time to the charity. The following year, she and husband John began fundraising at charity events including fetes and fairs.
The highlight of their time with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was in 2012 when the couple were heavily involved in Merlin’s Mission – an appeal fronted by springer spaniel Merlin to raise £30,000 in the charity’s 30th year. But that target was far exceeded and the team raised more than £70,000.
Denise said: “Merlin’s year really was the icing on the cake for us with Hearing Dogs and I am really proud of what we achieved. We did so many things from going on television to being involved with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight calendar.”
Another highlight for the couple was John being awarded a Diamond Champion Award, given to unsung heroes as part of a scheme during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The couple, from South Witham near Grantham, had initially intended to retire at the end of Merlin’s Mission but instead, they became involved with a second charity, Canine Partners.
“Merlin’s mum Pauline was going to a new role at Canine Partners and we agreed to form the Rutland Support Group for Canine Partners with her,” said Denise.
Through her new-found role with Canine Partners, where she was also a regular speaker, Denise was invited to visit the training centre for a third little-known charity, Medical Detection Dogs.
Denise was “absolutely blown away” to hear the story of the charity’s founder Dr Claire Guest, who’s own dog Daisy detected she had breast cancer – and of course, she just couldn’t say no when they asked her to get involved with that one too.
Some years she has been present at more than 300 talks or events, but even after nearly a decade, Denise admits she still gets a little bit nervous when she stands up to speak to an audience.
In their fundraising roles, the couple have covered most of Lincolnshire, as well as much of the East Midlands.
And while Denise has become a well-known face, she says she couldn’t have done it without the support of John, 70. “He drives me all over the place, helps me set up, carries my things. We now refer to him as the technical director,” says Denise.
But last year, the couple knew they had to slow down. Denise was admitted to hospital due to a crippling spinal disability and pancreatitis and she was given the wake-up call she really needed when a doctor asked her when she ever made time for herself.
Denise (59) said: “I’ve been thinking of retiring for the last 18 months but now the decision is made, I feel like I can really enjoy this year.”
But still playing on her mind is finding people to take on the invaluable role she and John have played. They hope readers will be inspired by their story to get involved.
To date, the couple have raised nearly £300,000 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People alone – and it is impossible to quantify how many people are aware of the charities thanks to the hundreds of talks and events they have done.
In retirement the couple will even get the chance to have their own dog –they have agreed to take on a retiring hearing dog called Poppy.
They will leave behind a lasting legacy. With the money Team Taylor has raised, the three charities have been able to train puppies that are now out there making a real difference. But they hope more volunteers will be inspired to come forward and carry that legacy on.
To speak to Denise about becoming a volunteer for any of the charities, call 01572 767515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE CHARITIES THAT NEED YOUR HELP
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains dogs to alert deaf people to sounds they can’t hear. The charity has about 900 partnerships of a hearing dog and a deaf person across the UK.
To find out more visit www.hearingdogs.org.uk or contact community fundraising manager Lucy Ward on 07769901292 or email email@example.com
Canine Partners transforms the lives of people with physical disabilities by carefully choosing a suitable assistance dog. They are trained to help with everyday tasks that might be too painful or impossible for people living with a disability.
To find out more visit www.caninepartners.org.uk or to get involved contact Helen Watkinson on 01530 225939 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical Detection Dogs trains dogs to detect the odour of human disease. The charity hopes this work will enable scientists to develop an early cancer screening system.
To get involved call volunteer coordinator Dawn Taylor on 01296 716027 or email email@example.com or visit www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk