Nurse quits job to walk pets of sick owners
A Red Cross worker has given up her job to help animal lovers who are too ill, elderly or weak to look after their own pets.
Bronagh O'Neill is the founder of Rosie's Trust, a new charity which has been created to provide practical care and support to vulnerable animal owners.
The 54-year-old from Bangor started the service last November after she left her full-time job as a health and social care service co-ordinator with the British Red Cross.
While it may only be regular dog walking or cleaning out a cat's litter tray, Rosie's Trust has since helped seven appreciative clients, some of them receiving palliative cancer care, in Belfast, Greyabbey and Newry.
Bronagh told the Belfast Telegraph that Rosie's Trust is inspired by the Cinnamon Trust in England which provides similar services to older people or terminally ill people and their pets.
"I had trained as a nurse in my early career and have been a Marie Curie volunteer so I suppose Rosie's Trust really brings all my passions together in one organisation," said Bronagh, who named the charity after her first dog, a golden retriever.
"There is no other charity in Northern Ireland to date that supports people in the way that we do.
"We want to keep the owner and the animal together. For a lot of people their animal is their only constant, it's their security and their friend, the one thing that they care really deeply about. Often when someone gets older and more frail, they have to give up their companion dog or cat.
"We are about supporting people who are terminally ill, older people or people undergoing acute cancer treatment who have companion pets that they are struggling to look after independently."
Bronagh has supported several clients herself, including a woman in her 70s who lives alone with her dog and is undergoing chemotherapy.
"This lovely lady does not have the strength to walk the dog herself so I go along and walk the dog for her and bring him back relaxed but exercised," she said.
"And the fact that he has been looked after helps her not to fret and worry about him and in turn helps her with recovery.
"This is really a win-win service, both for our clients and our volunteers.
"I must walk an extra 15 miles a week doing this job now."
She said the concept of Rosie's Trust has received a positive reception from groups such as MacMillan Cancer, Marie Curie and Age NI.
The charity hopes to serve all of Northern Ireland eventually and is currently run from Bronagh's home. It now has a group of trustees in place, with Bronagh as the charity's service manager.
It has 25 volunteers being trained to start helping clients in June.
She said: "Rosie's Trust is still very much in its infancy. We have just received charitable status which will be a great help as we create awareness of work, fund-raise and recruit more volunteers."
Rosie's Trust is a new charity whose volunteers provide practical care to pets when owners are unable to care for them. Pets looked after include dogs, cats and birds. Volunteers who could provide dog walking, cat feeding and litter changing, short-term fostering, vet visits, fund-raising and administration can apply to Rosie's Trust. Monthly donations are welcome, details available from www.rosietrust.org