Ayrton Cooper, 22, from Nottingham, is a Zoology student in the third year of his master’s degree at Nottingham University. This alone would be enough to make him a quite busy but, after volunteering in a cattery and working with small animal rescue centres, he decided he still had time to volunteer with dogs by walking them for their owner.

Ayrton began volunteering for the Cinnamon Trust, a national charity for the elderly and the terminally ill who have trouble looking after their pets, in 2015, walking dogs for two pensioners. However, he went far beyond what was expected to him – which is why he’ll be at Crufts next month to be awarded the Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer of the Year award.

Mr Williams was one of the pensioners whose dog – elderly Staffie Bruno – Ayrton was walking. Over time, visiting him and Bruno three times a week, Ayrton developed a bond with both. When Mr Williams passed away, he took it upon himself to find Bruno a new forever home, and is still in touch with his new owners.

Ayrton had to come to the rescue on a second occasion, when another elderly owner called John Abbot was hospitalised for weeks. He took in Sprocket, his Manchester Terrier, and alerted the Cinnamon Trust to start searching for a temporary foster home. When a short term foster home was found, Ayrton volunteered his services to drive Sprocket to her new foster family, where she stayed until Mr Abbott was able to return home.

Ayrton still walks both Sprocket and another dog called Scooby twice a week, all while still studying. He hopes that, after completing his master’s degree, he may go into conserving species and habitats in the wild – and would love to own a Staffie of his own.

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 will receive the Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer of the Year trophy at the show on Saturday 11 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.”

Image by Welham Photography.


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