'A small gesture from us' - Midlothian dog walking business delivers medicine and groceries free of charge to elderly clients amid coronavirus outbreak

Gary Whittle, owner of Pet Helpers.Gary Whittle, owner of Pet Helpers.
Gary Whittle, owner of Pet Helpers.
A Midlothian dog walking business is ramping up its efforts to deliver medicine and groceries free of charge to its elderly clients – especially those with underlying health conditions – as fears grow over the coronavirus outbreak.

The owner of Newtongrange-based Pet Helpers, Gary Whittle, says his team walk dogs belonging to a few people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and have been delivering their essentials daily since the ‘beast from the east’ hit the nation two years ago.

But the company has announced on social media the extra steps they will be taking from Friday to combat the spread of coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in Scotland jumped by 24 to 60 cases on Thursday.

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Among the measures is a pledge by staff to distance themselves by more than two metes from clients, as they pick up and collect pets and drop off essentials at their homes. They are also looking at wearing face masks when entering people's homes.

Mr Whittle said: “What made me think of doing this was when I heard additional figures come through today about the number of cases almost doubling in one day, and it could double tomorrow and the next day. We don’t know how many people are carrying it and that’s the scary thing.

“Every one of my clients in Newtongrange has COPD, a terrible lung condition which means they are a massive risk for coronavirus.”

The 40-year-old believes their health problems are linked to Newtongrange being a former mining village.

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He continued: “We will be getting all suited and booted. We will be wearing masks to make sure we are not breathing in to their households. We will also be keeping our distance and I will say to them ‘we will come and find their dogs in a different room.’ I would hate to go in to a house to pick up a dog and give them coronavirus.

“These services are a small gesture from us to try and make sure these clients are not having to go out as they are by far most at risk.”

The other steps mentioned in the company’s Facebook message include providing free prescription and medication deliveries, regardless of booking dog walks, and delivering essentials like milk and bread and other shopping if needed. These are services already offered by the business free of charge but Mr Whittle expects them to be ramping up their deliveries in the coming weeks.

He says Pet Helpers have about 100 regular clients, with up to 20 classed as elderly and reckons between five and 10 of these people are medically unwell.

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Most of the clients are in the south of the city and Midlothian in areas such as Loanhead, Gilmerton and Bonnyrigg.

Mr Whittle, who has been running the business for about three years and has about three other staff, said: “I am really worried about what’s going to happen. I can not get it out of my head. One of our European neighbours has a whole country on lock down and it does not feel like it’s being taken as seriously here.”

Online Reaction

Many have welcomed the move on the Pet Helpers Facebook page.

Amanda Bonkers Collins wrote: “So kind of you guys, such lovely humans you all are.”

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Louise Fowler said: “Amazing, we are lucky to have you and the team in the community.”

Mags Crichton said: “What a lovely thing to do we could do with more people like you.”

Pamela Shand said: “How generous and thoughtful.”