Killiney resident Christine Cannon gave herself a November challenge…to complete 25 swims in the cold temperatures of the Irish Sea so that she could raise funds for Dogs for the Disabled.
Christine, who has been dipping into Killiney beach, as well as the 40 foot, Whiterock, Seapoint and Greystones, hopes to raise €15,000 from her monthly series of dips. This amount would cover the cost of raising and caring for one assistance dog over the course of its lifetime.
The charity has felt the strain of Covid-19, with funding significantly lower compared with previous years. Christine explained: “Funding has unfortunately really dropped with Covid-19 but waiting lists have grown longer, as more people are signing up for dogs. Dogs for the Disabled runs on a very small budget and there is such a commitment from those involved, they work unbelievable hours but just don’t currently have enough funds to get dogs out their doors fast enough for the people that need them.”
Since 2007, the Cork-based Dogs for the Disabled has ethically bred and trained specially selected assistance dogs to help carry out a range of practical tasks to help assist disabled children and adults achieve greater freedom in their lives. The dogs are provided to their partners free of charge and the charity relies almost solely on donors.
STRAP – Christine’s son, Cian 19, was lucky enough to receive his first dog, Freedom, when he was just 10 years old.
“I have a very personal connection to the cause because when my son Cian, 19, was 10, he was given his dog, Freedom. Cian has a number of different challenges and when I look back on what he has achieved, getting Freedom was life-changing.
“Freedom came into his life for support, to help him walk up and down the stairs or maybe to assist him on uneven ground but these dogs offer such an emotional connection as well. Freedom is also a buddy, anybody who has a dog can understand that kind of relationship”, she said.
Every dog is trained to help with simple everyday tasks, such as opening and closing doors, picking up dropped items, emptying the washing machine, sending for help and helping children with walking difficulties get around with greater ease and comfort. The dogs are trained to cater to their specific partner’s needs, to assist them in living their life to the fullest.
Christine is no stranger to the water and wanted to combine her newfound hobby with a cause she is passionate about supporting.
She explained: “I’ve been swimming for years but never when it was really cold. Last year, I swam right through the winter and I’m aiming to do the same this year, it feels as if there is a revolution happening down at the water. So many people are getting into the water, it’s fantastic and I decided that I would put it to good use.
“I have to say, it is a challenge as you walk into the water, thinking, ‘why am I doing this’, then as soon as you’re in, it’s amazing. Cian has been my cameraman to help prove that I’m getting in for my dips.
“There was one day last week where I didn’t have the chance to go down during the day, so I went in the evening and swam under the street lights, when it was blustery but still safe to swim. I would never have done that before but felt great afterwards.
“It was only later that I noticed a group of people heading down to swim out of the Forty Foot with their torches, there’s great camaraderie with sea swimming. I think an entire swim culture has grown because of the pandemic and people have been really kind and supportive of what I’m doing.”
“I really believe in this cause, which is why I have no problem asking people to donate to Dogs for the Disabled, if they can. People have just been wonderful and seem to really love the cause, which has made it a lot easier to fundraise and we really appreciate anything that can be spared”, Christine concluded.
As Christine’s challenge draws to a close, there is still time to support her cause by using this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dogs-for-the-disabled-training.