We spoke to Pets As Therapy volunteer Ella Rauen-Prestes about having dogs as pets, starting her own business, Fitbakes, and finding the time for voluntary work.

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Volunteer profile

Name: Ella Rauen-Prestes

Role: Pets As Therapy volunteer

Became a volunteer: 2017

Location:  Cheltenham

PAT dog name: Piper

Breed: Yorkshire terrier

Age: 4

Our interview with Ella

Have you always had pets?

I had dogs most of my life, all kinds, from Dobermans to Yorkies. I believe dogs teach us so much, how to be better people.

How did Piper come into your life?

Piper was bought from a Kennel Club breeder in Yorkshire. She is a yorkie from Yorkshire!

What made you decide to become a Pets As Therapy volunteer?

I used to do some work with Guide Dogs, so dogs and volunteering were a thing for me. Then a friend from America moved to England and mentioned that her dog was a PAT dog in America and now she was getting registered in the UK. So, I looked into it.

What establishments do you visit?

Once a week we visit a nursing home called Astell, where they have elderly residents of all kinds. We also did some work in schools for children with learning disabilities last year.

Piper absolutely loves the visits! I keep her little PAT uniform in a drawer in the kitchen and when she sees me reaching for it she starts jumping, all excited and happy. Then once she has the uniform on, it’s like she knows she is working so she goes all calm and obedient.

What do you enjoy most about the visits?

Seeing the happy faces of people when Piper arrives is priceless.

What made you decide to start your own business?

My career background is in technology, and I worked for 20 years for a global telecom business. Some changes in the company I worked for were happening and I knew that if I wanted to keep a job I would have to go back to work in London.

So before that happened I started Fitbakes as a side business, and it took off! The idea came about because I am a ‘cakeaholic’ but I have to watch my weight, so I have been developing these recipes for years until people said “I can’t believe there is no sugar in these, you should sell it”. So I did!

Now I’m able to support charities through the business. For instance, we’re supporting Cancer Research UK in their Sugar Free February Campaign. Fitbakes will donate 10% of its profits to the campaign for the month of February 2019.

How do you balance running a business with voluntary work?

You have to organise your time. Unfortunately I have been doing a lot less volunteering since I founded the business, but hopefully things will calm down in the next months.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

So much to learn every day. You never get bored!

We would love to hear your stories about Pets As Therapy, whether you’re a volunteer, an establishment that works with us, or someone who has been visited by a PAT pet. To submit your story please contact marketing@monchu.uk.

We are also always looking for new recruits to carry on the incredible work that volunteers like Ella do. If you are interested in volunteering for Pets As Therapy, please fill out our application form, and we’ll be in touch.

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