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WATCH: Bereaved woman praises dog borrowing scheme for 'giving me a purpose'

PUBLISHED: 17:58 20 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:07 20 January 2019

Christine Martin and Rocket. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Christine Martin and Rocket. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Archant

A north Norfolk woman who lost her husband has described a project that helps people borrow dogs as “the best bereavement counselling I could think of”.

Christine Martin, 79, lost her husband David, who suffered from chest problems, in March 2016.

And the former beauty therapist has praised an innovative project which matches dogs and their owners with people wanting to look after animals part-time for helping her through her grief.

Mrs Martin, originally from north-east England, said looking after dogs from Barking Mad “makes my life purposeful”.

The widow, who now lives in Aylsham, moved to Norfolk with her second husband, an airport worker, where they kept golden retrievers until he died, aged 87.

Sharon Booden and Christine Martin became good friends through Barking Mad. Picture: Victoria PertusaSharon Booden and Christine Martin became good friends through Barking Mad. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

She said: “I was worried about vets bills after David died as I only have a pension. I wouldn’t be able to afford the bill if a dog got sick.”

But after a neighbour suggested to Mrs Martin she join Barking Mad, she was thrilled to be able to have dogs back in her life again.

“The first dog I had was a grey hound called Caspian,” she said.

“He came to stay with me for 12 days right after my husband died.

Taking care of dogs has helped Christine to feel less lonely. Picture: Victoria PertusaTaking care of dogs has helped Christine to feel less lonely. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“That was the best bereavement counselling I could think of. He sat quietly by me and took me out for gentle walks, and got me to accept normality.

“A dog for depression is really the best thing.

“When you have a dog you have to go out for walks twice a day, you must take the dog out in the morning and at night, and that’s good for you as well.

“It would be very easy to sit at home and not do anything, and not go out, and that’s how depression sets in.

Christine Martin has said Barking Mad has helped her feel less lonely and has kept her active. Picture: Victoria PertusaChristine Martin has said Barking Mad has helped her feel less lonely and has kept her active. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“But if you have a dog, people come up and talk to you.”

Barking Mad in Norwich and north Norfolk is run by Sharon Booden, and covers the areas of Acle, Aylsham, Caister, Cromer, Great Yarmouth, North Walsham, Norwich, Sheringham.

She described the project as an “antidote to the problem of loneliness in modern society.

“Meeting other like-minded dog lovers could really help to overcome feelings of isolation.

Sharon Booden, owner of Barking Mad Norfolk. Picture: Victoria PertusaSharon Booden, owner of Barking Mad Norfolk. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“Caring for a friendly dog not only provides canine cuddles - far better than any virtual hug - but also motivation to go for a walk.”

Most hosts are retired people or those who work from home.

To find out more about being a host, call Sharon Booden on 01692 584713 or visit www.barkingmad.uk.com

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