Wag and Company
1513. Diane Morton
Diane Morton, from Northumberland, founded and leads 'Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs', the UK’s only dog befriending charity for older people facing loneliness in their own homes.
Diane, with her husband Doug, established the charity 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 firsthand experience the difference a dog could make to personal wellbeing, they launched ‘Wag and Company’ in May 2016. The charity is now supported by a network of over 410 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 the volunteers continue 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.”
Guy Opperman, Diane’s local MP for Hexham, Tynedale and Ponteland, said:
“Diane’s outstanding voluntary work has helped to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation across the North East by ensuring older people can continue to enjoy the friendship and company of a dog. I saw for myself what a positive impact this can have during a visit last year. I am delighted to see Diane achieve this prestigious Points of Light Awards from the Prime Minister in recognition of such hard work over so many years.”
“As a very proud figurehead for over 411 amazing Wag & 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.”
Pictured below: one of Diane’s dog befrienders on a virtual call this year; and on previous physical visits