Happy Easter! I hope you're stocked up on eggs and hot cross buns, and ready for the arrival of the Easter bunny.
Talking of animals and Easter, how could this week's blog not be themed around our well-loved (and now cancelled two years on the trot - no pun intended!) 'Animals and the Emergency Services' event.
Under normal circumstances, this weekend would be one of the busiest of the year for us. We first held our 'Animals and the Emergency Services' event over the Easter weekend of 2018 and, due to its popularity, we made the decision to make it one of our regular yearly events. The 2019 event was even bigger and better, helped by glorious sunshine, and we were busy planning the 2020 event when coronavirus struck and the museum closed as a result of the first national lockdown. A year later here we are in the same position, and the event won't happen in 2021 either. BUT hopefully with light at the end of a tunnel, and a roadmap towards reopening museums in May, we can look forward to an amazing 2022 Easter event!
As part of day to day life we all see and hear our emergency services in some capacity, but one of the reasons we love this event so much is that it gives us the chance to showcase the stories that are not as well known... and the role of animals for sure are not as well known! From fire and rescue dogs to water rescue dogs, and from guide dogs to therapy ponies, we aim to celebrate them all.
Now here’s the ironic part to the story; we’ve never actually been able to showcase fire and rescue service dogs as part of this event, but we have tried! And the reason? There are just not enough of them and they’re needed too often. Dexter and Kai (fire dogs from Derbyshire and the West Midlands respectively) have both been on their way to the event in the past but have had to turn back when they were called to an emergency. One day we may actually see them in the 'fur'.
From agile fire and rescue dogs to absolutely HUGE Newfoundland water rescue dogs (otherwise known as donkeys in disguise). We’ve known Pete Lewin and his amazing water rescue animals for some time now and they have managed to make it to the museum for much more than just this event. They’ve helped us raise money in our time of need and hosted numerous water safety events both at the museum and as part of our outreach. These really are incredible animals and when you see them in the water they truly show their strength, pulling up to 12 people at once out of open water! Pete and his rescue dogs could make an entire blog on their own but for now you can find out loads more about them at www.petelewinnewfoundlands.co.uk.
Believe it or not, the Newfoundlands were actually bigger than some of the therapy ponies that attended our Easter event for the first time in 2019. You did read that right, miniature ponies! These miniature ponies are trained to be around humans and are small enough to go inside, visiting care homes and hospitals and helping people young and old. It’s not surprising (anyone with a pet will know this) but an animal really can cheer you up and just take your mind off of day-to-day life. As a museum this was a great opportunity to see the four-legged animals back in the building for the first time since we were a working police, fire and ambulance station.
Therapy and support animals can also be a great learning aid for those that need that little bit of support in coming out of their shell. Two of our favourite visitors are rescue dog Billy and his mum Sandra, who work side by side in supporting people with autism and with victims of emergency incidents, day or night. (Billy also makes an amazing wartime NARPAC - National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee - rep at our Wartime Christmas event.)
Sticking with our canine companions, we can't forget the fantastic team of guide dog volunteers who also attend our event but dedicate their time all year round to raising funds for Guide Dogs and working hard as their trainers. Starting as puppies these dogs become more domesticated than a lot of people! From assisting with crossing the road or just popping to the shop to emptying the washing machine, these dogs do it all.
Finally I could not finish this blog without mentioning the truly world famous Mr Pelucchi! He and his amazing PA have been a rock through this last year to so many people and, while working hard as an honorary firefighter for Berkshire (or 'Bark'shire!), he found the time to create a charity calendar raising funds for our museum and the charity Our Blue Light. Well done Mr P! And even though we're a few months into this year there’s still time to buy your calendar from our online shop.
Our ‘Animals and the Emergency Services’ event will return in 2022! You can find out more about all the events and everything that’s going on here at NESM on our website: www.visitnesm.org.uk/whatson.