Ayrton Cooper, 22, from Nottingham, is getting ready to be awarded the Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer of the Year award at the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, next month.
Ayrton, who is currently in his third year of his master’s degree at Nottingham University, studying Zoology, wanted to get involved with dogs after volunteering in a cattery for a couple of years as well as previously working with small animal rescue centres.
He discovered the Cinnamon Trust, the national charity for the elderly, the terminally ill and their pets, after making the decision that dog walking would be a good way to get involved with dogs whilst helping out in the local community. When he first joined the Trust in 2015, he walked dogs for two pensioners; one of which was Mr Williams, who was in his late seventies, and his elderly Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bruno. Ayrton struck up a strong bond with the pair, seeing them at least three times a week, which was more than he saw his own family members.
When Mr Williams sadly passed away last year Bruno was left homeless and Ayrton took it upon himself to find Bruno a new forever home. Ayrton still checks in with Bruno’s new owners to find out how he is, as the pair formed a strong bond during such a difficult time.
Shortly before Bruno’s owner passed away and when the other dog he was walking went into foster care, Ayrton began walking two new dogs: Scooby the Springer Spaniel owned by Mr and Mrs Sims, who have poor mobility and Sprocket the Manchester Terrier owned by John Abbot, aged 72, who was very frail.
Ayrton had only met Sprocket once before John collapsed and needed hospital treatment for a few weeks. With no one to take Sprocket, Ayrton soon realised that the young dog would have been left alone in the house with no one to feed or walk her. He sprang into action and alerted the Cinnamon Trust to start the search for a temporary foster home. In the meantime Ayrton took Sprocket home to await their call.
When a short term foster home was found by The Cinnamon Trust Ayrton volunteered his services to drive her to her new foster family in Nottingham where she stayed until she was able to go home to Mr Abbot, who had returned after his hospital stay.
Ayrton, who grew up with dogs in the family, still walks both Sprocket and Scooby twice a week, alongside his university commitments. After completing his master’s degree he hopes to go into conserving species and habitats in the wild and would love to own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier of his own one day.
Speaking about his win, Ayrton said: “I was very shocked when I found out. I was really grateful – I don't do this for anything in return and certainly not for an award. I do it for the dogs and the owners' peace of mind knowing their dog is getting enough exercise. I don't know of any other stories from other volunteers, but I think everyone is doing a great job so everyone can share the award with me.”
Ayrton, who has never been to Crufts before, will receive the prestigious Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer of the Year trophy at the show on Saturday 11th March at 12:20pm in the Young Kennel Club ring.
Mrs Averil Jarvis MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of the Cinnamon Trust, said: “Our Young Volunteer of the Year, Ayrton Cooper, makes the world a fun and super happy place for the dogs when he visits, each in turn twice a week, to take them for their walks. Ayrton’s heroic actions when John, Sprocket’s owner, fell ill and his subsequent care of Sprocket made sure John knew his beloved dog was safe and happy. This award is a very well deserved accolade for Ayrton.”
In conjunction with the Young Kennel Club, the Cinnamon Trust encourages young people who love dogs, to help older people who also love dogs but are unable to fully care for their canine companion themselves. It’s a win-win-win situation – the dog wins as they get a fun walk and stay healthy, the owner wins as they get peace of mind with a happy dog, and the young volunteer wins as they make new friends and gain a great sense of pride.