This Christmas, a team of extra special people have pledged to give up their well-earnt holiday time to give back to pets in need.

Working hard behind the scenes, you probably wouldn’t even spot them if you visited our Thirsk rehoming centre because they are always busy and focused on the job in hand – but if you did, you’d be greeted with a smile. In addition to their usual volunteering hours, these amazing people are donating even more of their spare time to make Christmas that little bit more special for the dogs and cats at our centre in north Yorkshire.

Caroline Cocker and her partner David Price have been taking homeless dogs out and about to give them a break from kennels for three years, and during that time have walked over 50 canines.

David explained: “At the time we first thought about volunteering we had house rabbits and worked full time so we couldn’t have a dog of our own, but we love dogs and we love walking. We contacted the centre and said ‘do you mind if we come down and take dogs out for weekend adventures?’”

Volnteers David and Caroline make a fuss of staffie Belle, who is black but going grey around her muzzle

The rest, as they say, is history.

This Christmas, the couple are giving up their precious annual leave to visit Blue Cross dogs even more than they usually do.

Caroline said: “We have the week off between Christmas and New Year so we’re going to pop in for extra walks. The best thing is seeing the change in confidence in a dog that we’ve walked over many weekends for a long time. Taking a puppy out for a carry is great too!”

One of Caroline and David’s favourite places to visit with their walking companions is the nearby Redcar beach with its great expanse of sand; the sights and sounds of which many dogs have not had the opportunity to enjoy before.

David said: “Seeing the change in them is amazing. We often walk ex-racing greyhounds and the beach is a brilliant place to take them too as they’ve never seen the waves come up onto the shore before. Seeing their reactions to different environments is just brilliant. And staffies do the best smiles in the world!”

Local students are giving up their school holidays to dedicate extra time to pets too.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Mann has ambitions to become a vet and began volunteering at our Thirsk centre back in the summer holidays after sitting his GSCEs, at which he excelled.

“I’ve always wanted to be a vet. It’s been my dream since I was about five,” explains Jonathan.

a black and white kitten sits of a scratching post with 16-year-old Jonathan watching closely

“Volunteering gives you the skills to be able to handle the animals and shows you the behaviour of them within a rescue centre as opposed to at the vet’s or in a home environment, as it’s more stressful here because they’re out of their own comfort zone and safety net of a home.”

This Christmas, as well as fitting in coursework and exam preparation and catching up with friends and family, Jonathan will be down at our Thirsk centre making sure the pets know they have someone to share Christmas with.

As will Lucy Pringle, aged 14, who isn’t a hundred per cent sure which career path she’d like to take yet, but she knows it’ll be one where she works closely with animals and is making sure she gets as much work experience under her belt as possible before the time comes to make job decisions.

Lucy introduces Jasper, a cocker spaniel who she’s been spending lots of time with since he arrived in Blue Cross care. Coming into a rehoming centre environment has been a bit of a change for Jasper, and Lucy has helped to give him the reassurance he needs to know he’s in a safe place.

“This is Jasper,” says Lucy. “He’s been at the centre just over a month. He’s an ex-gun dog and is about nine years old. He’s just lovely; he gives you kisses, climbs on you, cuddles. If you’re ever feeling down you can go to him for a cuddle and he’ll give it to you; there’s no doubt about that!

Jasper jumps for a treat

“It’s hard to choose a favourite thing about volunteering here because every time you come it’s very different. One day you might have a dog on your knee and the next you might be cleaning cat pens, it varies so there’s always a favourite bit in each week.”

This Christmas, as well as giving the pets the gifts of time, and care, Lucy is planning on making sure the animals don’t miss out on presents.

She adds: “I’m planning on buying everyone a little something, whether it’s a treat or a toy. Just something to make them feel appreciated and make them feel that this is a special time of year.”

The efforts of Caroline, David, Jonathan, Lucy and all of our wonderful volunteers haven’t gone unnoticed.

Jenny Day, Volunteer Coordinator at our Thirsk rehoming centre, says: “Every day of the week, up and down the country, at all of our Blue Cross locations and from home, our amazing team of volunteers dedicate their time and skills to help us in our mission to change pets’ lives. We’re so lucky to have you on our team.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of them and wish all of our fantastic volunteers a very merry Christmas.”

If you could give your time to help pets in need, we have a role for you! Visit our volunteering pages to find out more and get in touch.

— Page last updated 20/12/2017