The Cinnamon Trust: Helping the housebound to keep their pets

What happens when elderly or terminally-ill pet owners are unable to care for their pets?  Heaped on top of their own anxieties are those for their beloved pets: how will the dog have a daily walk, or who will clean out the budgie’s cage?

Fortunately the Cinnamon Trust is a lifeline to worried pet owners.  Founded in 1985 by Mrs Averil Jarvis, the Trust’s aim is to alleviate the anxiety and sadness faced by pet owners when they can’t care for their animal companions, whether in the short or longer term.  The Trust was named after Mrs Jarvis’ beloved corgi Cinnamon, who died in her 17th year just as Mrs Jarvis was developing the charity.

The Trust works in partnership with owners to overcome difficulties, keeping owners and animals together with the mutual benefits that this brings.  A nationwide network of 15,000 volunteers provides practical help with day-to-day care, while a fostering service takes care of pets whose owners face a stay in hospital.  These pets are taken into volunteers’ homes to be cared for until they can be re-united with their owners.

The Trust also provides long term care for pets where an owner has died, or moves into residential care.  Where possible, pet owners often make arrangements in advance and this brings a measure of reassurance that their animal companions have an assured and caring future.

When a pet is in the Trust’s care either short term or long term because the owner is in care, the owner is kept in touch with visits, if possible, or regular photos and letters

Here are just two stories which illustrate the Trust’s commitment.

Burmese cat companions Bonny and Clyde were aged 15 and Poppy aged 14 when their owner Anne was admitted to a hospice. Devoted to each other, her gorgeous family of Burmese cats came to Poldarves Sanctuary. We were able to send photos and letters, so Anne knew they had settled happily and still did the things they had always done, like sleep together in one furry heap, stalk each other in play and swap dinner dishes half way through.

Audrey is blind. She always had dogs and looked after them beautifully. Devastated when her old dog died, she contacted us. At about the same time, Penny, a lovely black cocker spaniel aged 10, was deeply traumatised by her owner’s death. She needed one-to-one care, and fast. Audrey and Penny have been inseparable ever since. Penny goes everywhere with Audrey and, as far as all the shops are concerned, Penny is Audrey’s guide dog.  They are a perfect pair – meant to be!

What about those who volunteer for the Trust?  Ella Mogridge from Eastbourne found out about the Cinnamon Trust when the World Wide Volunteering organisation came to give a talk at Plumpton College where she is a student.  Keen to be involved in her local community and with a strong desire to help animals, Ella contacted the Trust. Once her references had been taken up and all the approprite security checks undertaken, Ella became a fully-fledged volunteer.  Nine months on, she walks two West Highland Terriers every day and has recently added a Jack Russell to her schedule.

Ella says: “It’s impossible to put into words how beneficial this scheme is for all involved. Anybody who has owned a pet understands the heartache that comes when you can’t do what is best for your animal, or worst scenario cannot live with them any longer due to illness. Simply, if a dog owner becomes ill and cannot walk it, it is unfair to restrict the dog’s exercise and will be detrimental to both its mental and physical health. The only solutions to this are either to pay a dog walking company to take it out, or give them a better life in another household. Volunteers such as me coming to these people’s houses free of charge enable the unbreakable bond between human and animal to remain, which is invaluable in most people’s eyes, never mind the human to human company we can offer for an owner who may be widowed and cannot get out very often. I frequently stay for a cup of hot chocolate with my Westies’ owners and have a chat every evening, something she’s very grateful for. Both the owners remark on how much they enjoy watching their dogs react when they know it’s me at the door and they’re going for ‘walkies’.”

Just an hour a day can make so much difference, as Ella testifies.  If you would like to help owners and their pets, contact the Cinnamon Trust – all details are on their website www.cinnamon.org.uk.  Donations to support the Trust are always welcome and details on how to do this may also be found on the website.

This feature was published in The Sussex Newspaper (online) on November 29th 2011.

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