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How Therapy Dogs Nationwide Was Born

Eileen Hodge

“Why don’t you start a charity of your own?”
A throwaway remark that led to something incredible!!!

Yes, it was that chance remark by a friend and fellow volunteer of another national charity that started everything off I was a VAC for a well-known charity and held meetings every 2 months for all the volunteers in my area. We were going through a lot of unrest and dissatisfaction with how the charity was treating us and I know a lot of people will know exactly how we felt. We were voicing our opinions on how things were, when Jane uttered her remark about starting a charity of our own, and I just laughed and said “I don’t think so ha ha” but her words stuck in my mind.

A few days later I mentioned it to my husband, Tony, and was taken aback when he said, “Why don’t you?” I replied, “I can’t start a charity, I’ve got no idea how to do it or what’s involved.” Tony agreed with me, however, he said “I know you don’t know how to start a charity, but I’m sure there are people who do know that you can ask.”

So, Tony and I sat and talked and I realised that the first person I must ask would be Eileen Slattery whom I knew from experience was a lady that can get things done! So that was the first telephone call and of course she knew of someone who works setting up charities, so we should talk to them about what it all entailed. He made it all seem so easy too!

We then decided we needed others to help us get it up and running and with different fields of expertise than us. So the next phone calls were to Mary Oliver MBE and Anne Jones, Anne for her administrative skills and her thoroughness and Mary for her educational skills, her work with other high profile charities and her persuasiveness! (Also, an MBE would look good on correspondence!)

Our first meeting was on 28th January 2016 we decided that we had to have someone to spearhead the charity and be chairman. Of course, the obvious choice had to be the person who has ‘kissed the Blarney Stone‘twice and could sell ‘ice to the Eskimos‘, which is none other than our other Eileen, or ‘Slats‘ as we affectionately call her.

We applied to register with the Charity Commission, and boy was there a lot of paperwork, but Tony and I ploughed through filling it all in and then asking Mary to look through it before we sent it off on February 2nd. One week later my hubby died, and I took a back seat whilst the others brought Therapy Dogs Nationwide to life.

Anne setting up admin so brilliantly and Mary travelling all over the country giving talks and for setting up the Paws & Read Scheme, Eileen S for organising badges, uniforms and recruitment and countless other things. In remembrance of Tony, we have received over £7,000 in donations over the months, so he has continued to help us as I know he would have done if he had been with us today.

I am so proud of what we have all done in these past months. But most of all, the friendliness, helpfulness and communication that exists between all our volunteers, including us, the Trustees is all we ever wanted.

Thank you Jane for your immortal words, “Why don’t you start a charity of your own?”


By, Eileen Hodge, Co-Founder & Trustee

Our Achievements (so far!)

Over 1500 volunteers registered

Recognition and referrals from The Kennel Club

Pioneering work with children and libraries

More hospitals taking our volunteers

Working within prisons and closed establishments

Courses for assessors

Charity partnerships and collaborations

The list is endless!!

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