And find out about the everyday differences they, and other four-legged heroes, make to our lives
Dogs have undoubtedly played an unexpected and vital role in helping many owners through this year – as we coped with isolation, various restrictions, challenges, anxieties and stresses resulting from the pandemic. Recognising this difference our canine companions have made for us, our 2021 Discover Dogs campaign is all about celebrating our four-legged heroes and the little things they do that have helped us through a year like no other.
Featuring Jasmine, the Hungarian Vizsla who helped her nurse owner, Jo, through emergency relocation to support the Nightingale Hospital effort, Afghan Hound Cyrus, who gave his owners a reason to get out in the fresh air during lockdown, Pepper, the Border Collie puppy who checks in on students struggling with the pandemic, and Evie, the Cocker Spaniel, fitness motivator and ray of sunshine – meet the hero dogs and stars of the 2021 Discover Dogs campaign:
Breed: Hungarian Vizsla
Unusual habit: Being best friends the family ginger kitten – spending all day playing hide and seek and then curling up next to each other on the bed!
Jo Mooney, Jasmine’s owner, is a nurse practitioner and found comfort in Jasmine during the Covid-19 outbreak, as she supported with the Nightingale Hospital efforts and relocated to London during the weeks.
“Jasmine definitely helped me and my family through lockdown,” says Jo. “Getting out and about to walk your dog at one time was the only thing you were allowed to do and it just gave a little taste of normality and a breath of fresh air away from it all. Dog walks during lockdown were really therapeutic at a time of such high stress and anxiety.
“Working in ITU at the Nightingale Hospital, it was humbling to see what they put together in such a short amount of time and the scale of the unfolding emergency situation with the pandemic. I stayed in London during the weekdays and going home and going out with Jasmine really helped to de-stress. Jasmine is really sensitive, she knows when something isn’t quite right and just comes and sits quietly and puts her head on my knee.
“Because of Covid, my daughter had to come home from university early too. She was in her final year and doing her dissertation, and it was a really unsettling time with the pandemic and missing her last few months at uni. Jasmine was a really important comfort for her too.”
Breed: Afghan Hound
Favourite treat: A peanut butter biscuit!
Cyrus and his owner Tracey Gosling come and volunteer at Discover Dogs every year to meet potential owners and help them to get to know the breed. She owns several dogs who all helped to get her and her family to keep a routine during lockdown.
“Our dogs kept us going through the pandemic – without them we just wouldn’t have gone out at all”, said Tracey. “Although we couldn’t meet people during lockdown, we could get out for them, but it also helped us through.”
Age: 17 months
Breed: Border Collie
Favourite toy: Frisbee
Unusual habit: Blowing bubbles in water
Pepper helped her owner Paige Jepson through lockdown. Being just a puppy, her training and cuddles were a great distraction from what was going on in the world.
Pepper was also an unsung hero for others – at the college Paige lectures at and her Grandad’s nursing home: “I’m a lecturer and sometimes Pepper comes into college with me,” said Paige. “She always knows if one of the students is having a tough day, she’s really sensitive and will go over and check in. I also take her to see my grandad who lives a nursing home – everyone there loves her and she gets so much attention.”
Breed: Cocker Spaniel
Favourite toy: Tennis ball, of course!
Favourite treat: Salmon bites
Evie and her owner Chrissie Pearce do all sorts of activities together – from agility to breed showing, or volunteering at Discover Dogs to help potential owners learn more about the breed.
During the pandemic and before, Evie was Chrissie’s fitness buddy and helped maintain both her physical and mental strength during lockdown.
“Even though you couldn’t meet people to exercise, we were still exercising together and that benefited both of us,” says Chrissie. “Evie really kept my spirits up too when we couldn’t see others and the pandemic was having a huge impact on life.
“If you’ve got a dog, it’s a reason to get up in the morning. Their companionship is like no other; dogs are always are there for you, at every moment of the day. I’m a groomer and clients regularly tell me how their dogs have been their lifeline – pandemic or not.”
Lockdown lifesavers: What the research says
Away from our campaign cover stars and more widely, research by The Kennel Club shows three in five (61 per cent) owners believe that their dog was a lifeline during lockdown, with an overwhelming 91 per cent agreeing that their dog improves their mental health and wellbeing. With reports of anxiety and loneliness levels unprecedently high during the Covid-19 pandemic, this suggests that dogs were, and continue to be, on ‘the frontline’ of combatting a mental health crisis and our lockdown lifesavers.
Dogs also have a unique therapeutic value – 61 per cent owners say they find more comfort in their dog than humans and 41 per cent agree their dog doesn’t judge them ‘in the way humans can’. Almost one in three (30 per cent) also feel their dog is there for them when no one else is, showcasing the value of canine companionship when human contact was limited.
These hero dog stories and wide-ranging figures show the major and positive impact of dogs and we hope you’ll enjoy meeting all the different breeds at this year’s Discover Dogs, which celebrates and showcases the benefits of dog ownership and what a huge difference our unsung four-legged heroes make for us, just by being by our side.