THE University of Chester’s Student Dog Walkers project is back helping in the community once again.

The scheme sees students help owners who are either elderly or struggling to exercise their dogs due to ill health.

It aims to give dog owners peace of mind that their beloved canine friend receives regular walks to keep them happy and healthy. It also helps the students to make friends, take outdoor exercise and fill the void created by missing any pets they may have at home.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year the project was paused and has now been risk assessed in line with Covid-19 guidance, including that the volunteers are placed into pairs and cannot be swapped.

The student volunteers have received training on Covid safety as well as dog behaviour and other safety aspects. The owners have also been briefed on necessary measures to keep themselves and the student volunteers safe.

Student volunteers Rosa Hinchcliffe, 20, from Bolton and Sophie West, 20, from Salford, share accommodation together, as well as both walking Lara for owner Yvonne.

Rosa said: “I signed up because I think it’s important to give back wherever you can, and, from a personal standpoint, I saw it as a great way to have a break from university work a couple of times a week whilst doing something helpful. And who doesn’t want to spend more time with dogs?

“I’m so happy it’s up and running again, as we love seeing Lara regularly and always enjoy our chats with Yvonne. It helps to break up the week and we always look forward to it.”

On their return to Chester, Rosa and Sophie sent Yvonne a card to say they were thinking of her and Lara.

Yvonne replied that she missed them too and would love for them to return to their walks with Lara when it was possible.

Rosa added: “It’s lovely to see Yvonne and take Lara out again. I would say that if anybody is thinking of volunteering and has even a spare half an hour a week, it’s definitely a great programme to be a part of.”

Sophie added: “I volunteered for the dog walking programme as I really love dogs, and as I don't own one at home, I was really keen on the idea of helping someone in the community by walking their dogs every week.

"I'm really glad we were given permission to start walking Lara again because I had really missed her over lockdown! I enjoy being able to get out the house to go for the walks and it's also nice to chat to Yvonne as well.”

Yvonne Marshall, who is in her 80s and lives in Chester, has owned dogs since she was 18 but is unable to walk her 14-year-old cocker spaniel, Lara, any longer.

She described the student volunteers as “delightful”.

She said: “Lara loves her walkies twice a week and I hope they can continue. I think it’s wonderful for owners who can’t walk their dogs and excellent for the students if they are animal lovers and it broadens their horizons by meeting other people instead of those in the student world.

“I’m so glad it’s up and running again and I would very much recommend others to go to the University for help with their dogs. I’m very appreciative.”

Jo Morison, mentoring project officer at the university, said: “The Chester Student Dog Walkers project was one of the first student-led projects set up by the Volunteering Team in 2018, and we were saddened to have to pause the project back in March.

"Following an extensive assessment of the project and the measures needed to protect owners and the volunteers, we are thrilled the project can begin again.

“The student project leaders this year, Amethyst, Rebecca, Georgina and Georgia, are extremely dedicated and proactive, and are doing all they can along with the Volunteer Team to ensure volunteers and owners are safe, whilst also providing this essential volunteer project.

"This project has so many benefits, for the dogs, owners and the volunteers themselves, and I am looking forward to seeing this hugely rewarding project continue this year.”

  • The project is currently available to new owner enquiries. If you feel you would benefit from this project and meet the criteria, contact or call 01244 511556.