A dog’s life for Ellie, but she loves helping them all

Ellie Keen is very much an animal person. From having pet cats as a child to working at a mustang rescue centre in Florida, USA, to having a job as a supervisor in a pet shop, she has always had an affinity with creatures of all shapes and sizes.
Ellie and trainee support dog Bon BonEllie and trainee support dog Bon Bon
Ellie and trainee support dog Bon Bon

The 27-year-old even studied animal behaviour and training at university, cementing her thirst for learning about and working with animals.

For the past two years, Ellie has been working as a trainer with Support Dogs, a Sheffield-based national charity, which provides and trains dogs to help autistic children, adults with epilepsy and adults with a physical disability, to lead safer, more independent lives.

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She plays an instrumental role in honing the skills of dogs to transform the lives of clients.

“Since I was young, I have been helping out at my local yard – it was more horses until I got to university, when I made the switch to animals in general. My degree was dog based – there was a lot of theory around training dogs,” said Ellie.

After university, Ellie, who is originally from Brighton, went back to working in the pet shop, but as this was around the time of lockdown, like many others, she found it difficult maintaining a job in retail.

“I wanted to do something more tailored to what I wanted to do,” she said.

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So Ellie applied for a job with Support Dogs and after being accepted, she upped sticks and moved more than 230 miles north to Sheffield to take up the role.

Describing what her job entails, Ellie, who recently moved her 13-year-old Maine Coon cat, Huggy from Brighton to live with her, said: “I train the older dogs that have either come from the puppy team or have been donated to us, until they go to their client.

“That involves either deciding which programme they are going to go to, tailor-training them for that programme, looking at potential clients for them and making sure they would be suitable for that client or tailor-training them to suit that person’s life.“I also work closely with volunteer foster carers who give the dogs homes for evenings and weekends and come into the centre during the day for training.”

Ellie is usually responsible for the care and training for three dogs at a time.

She said: “I absolutely love it. It really suits me.

To find out more about the invaluable work of Support Dogs, please visit www.supportdogs.org.uk