Founder of Shawlands based charity wins community hero award

The founder of a unique charity which provides animal companionship for older people has been honoured with a top award.

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Louise Russell, who runs Give a Dog a Bone, has won the prestigious Pride of Scotland Community Hero award for her work to combat loneliness.

Her charity, founded in 2013, helps people aged 60+ afford to home a rescue pet.

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It also runs community schemes – in Shawlands, Troon and Alloa – providing free activities and a team of companionship dogs allowing those who love animals to spend time with them.

Louise (47) was presented with the Pride of Scotland award at a glitzy ceremony hosted by comedians Elaine C. Smith and Sanjeev Kohli at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh.

Give a Dog a Bone Charity founder and Award Winner Louise Russell.

She was also delighted to receive a £10,000 donation for the charity from the award’s sponsor TSB which was presented by chief executive Robin Bulloch.

She said: “The awards were a fantastic opportunity to be recognised and share the experience with my family.

“All the winners were just amazing human beings and it was an honour to be counted amongst them.

“It’s lovely to be honoured in this way and I hope it will help it will shed more light on the work we do at Give a Dog a Bone.

“It’s a real team effort and I wouldn’t be able to operate the service I do without a wonderful team of staff and volunteers behind me.”

The annual Pride of Scotland Awards celebrate unsung heroes and recognise Scots who have gone to extraordinary lengths to help others.

Louise was awarded the TSB Community Hero honour after being nominated and then assessed by a judging panel.

Her award was presented by Greg Hemphill and Gavin Mitchell from Still Game along with a special ‘well done’ video message from comedian Ricky Gervais.

Louise had always dreamed of setting up a charity which would address two issues close to her heart - animal welfare and isolation in older people.

She came up with the idea of combating loneliness in the over-60s by removing some of the financial barriers faced by those seeking to adopt a rescue pet and set up Give a Dog a Bone in November 2013.

The charity works by offering those who need it financial support towards the rehoming fee of a rescue animal and ongoing help with insurance costs.

In 2018, Louise expanded Give a Dog a Bone’s remit by launching a community space project.

The three spaces operate a Pet Food Bank for those who struggle to feed their pet as well as free activities for the over 60s including Group Dog Walks, Reflexology, Chair Yoga, Art Club and Singing for Wellbeing.

And those who come along can also spend time with the charity’s friendly team of companionship dogs.

Louise says: “We’re proud of the charity’s dual role and over the past nine years we’re delighted to have brought thousands of animals and older people together.

“It’s so important to tackle social isolation and we welcome anyone who wants to come along to one of our community spaces to pop in for a cup of tea, a chat, some fun activities and to meet the dogs belonging to our staff and volunteers.

“All three of our community spaces are thriving and popular and we have an average of 250 people coming in every week.”

Louise, who lives in Clarkston, is also keen to open more community spaces in areas which would benefit from the charity’s services.

She said: “We would love to expand and launch more spaces and the only obstacle to that aim is finance, so we would be delighted to hear from any businesses or members of the public who can support us in any way.”

For more information on Give a Dog a Bone and the services the charity provides, visit the website www.giveadogabone.net.