Dog-mad couple find puppy love Dog lovers Jean and John Holroyd from Sheffield were certain they would never have another dog after the sudden death a of their much-loved Labradoodle. But that was before they saw an advert in their local paper from charity Support Dogs asking for people to volunteer as puppy socialisers. Support Dogs, a national charity based in Sheffield, trains dogs for people with epilepsy, autism and physical disability, and recently expanded its programme to include puppies, to meet rising demand for its services. But it now needs more dog-loving people to look after the pups before they start their formal training at the age of 15 months. “When we saw the ad, we talked about it a lot - should we, shouldn’t we,” says Jean, aged 66, who worked on the reception at Hillsborough Leisure centre for more than 20 years. “We had two dogs before, an ex-rescue bearded collie called Lyle that we had for 15 years and a Labradoodle who we’d had from the eight weeks old, called Dobby, who died suddenly of a rare condition aged just five in 2016 which was devastating. “We couldn’t have a dog again, but we’d always enjoyed the training side of having a dog.” What made the Holroyds finally make their decision was seeing Support Dogs’ epilepsy client Brogan Evans and her seizure alert dog Wadsley talking about the difference he made to her life on BBC’s The One Show. “We’re both retired, and we wanted to put something back, it wasn’t that we just wanted a dog,” adds John, 67, an ex self-employed builder and joiner. “We wanted to have a dog but also to have a purpose in life.” Adds Jean: “We were a bit worried about how we’d feel when we had to let her go, but then we thought – she’s not our dog and we have only got her for a limited time. The big factor was that we wanted to help other people.” Jean and John were teamed up with adorable yellow Labrador Dawnay and after the first six weeks of inevitably lively puppy behaviour, she has now calmed down and is providing lovely canine company. “She was hard work and it was very tiring for the first six weeks, and we had to watch that she didn’t rip things to shreds,” says Jean. “I think we are over the worst bit now – the constant up and downs and always being on the go. “She is a very loving dog, and she loves children. We have two grandchildren, Evie, aged seven, (pictured below left) and Isla who’s two and a half, and they love snuggling up on her bean bag chair with her.” Jean and John take Dawnay to puppy classes once a week at Support Dogs’ training centre, and the charity’s puppy co-ordinator Natalie Wroe visits once a fortnight to do some training and to check Dawnay’s progress. Now that the pup has had all her jabs the Holroyds are planning to introduce her to their favourite walks such as Greno Woods and taking her further afield in their touring caravan to the Yorkshire coast and North Wales. Then when she is 15 months old Dawnay will leave the Holroyds and start her full-time training to become a professional assistance dog. “We’re loving being puppy socialisers – it’s ideal for people who can’t commit to owning a dog, but love having them around, and who want to help other people,” says Jean. “We’d highly recommend it.” Danny Anderson, fundraising manager at Support Dogs says: “We’re really grateful to John and Jean, and we urgently need more people like them to help change lives and look after our tiny superheroes. “As a puppy socialiser you will play a vital role in our puppies' formative years, caring for a puppy in your home and providing them with the socialisation and training they will need. “If you live in or within an hour drive of Sheffield and might be interested, we'd love to hear from you. “ Support Dogs can be contacted on [email protected] or on 0114 2617800.