Did you know that Friday, 23rd of June is Bring Your Dog to Work Day? It originated in 1996 in the UK before gaining popularity in the USA and becoming an annual nationwide event that raises money for charities dedicated to making a difference to the welfare of dogs. At The Soap Co. and CLARITY, we welcome dogs any day, not just for fun and for all the benefits that having a dog in a workplace brings. They are working dogs who help our staff on their journeys to and from work, and so much more. Stephen Steppens, our long-standing receptionist, is one of our staff who has a guide dog, and this is his story.
I’ve had five guide dogs over the years - Portia, Franny, Nero, Luke and now Owen. I got my first guide dog in 1981, when I was 21. Only one month later, I started my first job at the London Association for the Blind in Bermondsey. In March 1985, I started working for GWB, as Clarity used to be called then, with Portia by my side. Sadly, about half a year later, I lost her to a car accident that really shook me and turned my life upside down. It wasn’t until 1989, when I got my new companion Franny who brought light back into my life. A dog isn’t only a man’s best friend but a guide helping people with sight impairments to navigate the streets. They offer a greater amount of freedom which really helps build confidence.
Going to work is important for one's self-esteem. There are many, many disabled people that don’t work because employers are reluctant to take them on. According to RNIB statistics, roughly 75 – 80% of blind people of working age are unemployed. It’s a big issue in the 21st century to encourage employers to take disabled people on. But what they should realise is that blind or otherwise disabled people often make great employees because they really appreciate how valuable the job is.
For many years, I only had a 15 minute walk to work, and it was rather easy with the dog. But as the company and I moved to different locations, the journeys changed. Now, I travel from East Finchley in North London to Highams Park, which is in East London. I take a bus, two tubes, and an Overground followed by a 5 minute walk to get to work. This is not straight forward, so the dog is vital for helping me make the journey. He’s an excellent dog, Owen is! He takes me on escalators, which he has been trained to do, walks me through stations and is very good at learning new routes. As I’ve told many people – he’s the best tube dog I’ve ever had.
Guide dogs are loved at work. People want to come up to them to say hello and make a big fuss. But people must remember that they are also working dogs. “Please do not overfeed the dogs!” is a mantra we keep saying to people. With their cuddly looks and beautiful eyes they appear so sad and want you to feed them. Please, don’t! Sneaky treats increase Owen's weight and, if he is found to be overweight during a Guide Dogs Association checkup and training visit, it could land me and him in trouble. Guide dogs are owned by the Guide Dog Association, who have trained guide dogs for the last 100 years or so, and they lend them to blind people.
Having a guide dog has made a tremendous difference to me. It has increased my confidence and has allowed me to do many social activities that would have been harder to get to without my dog, Owen. I used to belong to a Christian church and used to take my dog to the church. Now, I do lots of other things. I am a member of a Science Fiction group who meets up once a fortnight in Southwark in a pub called The Mad Hatter. I also take him for a fortnightly walk in Hampstead Heath with some friends and volunteers that help other guide dog owners and myself take our dogs for a joyful run. Owen loves his toys. He has a kong, which is a rubber toy that he absolutely adores.
All my guide dogs have given me a quality of life I wouldn’t otherwise have. With Owen, he and I are a team and I am very grateful for him.
This week has been interesting. For those who don’t know, due to a similarity in names with a company called Soap & Co. which has been investigated by BBC Newsnight, many people mistook our brand for theirs.
We have been made aware of a BBC investigation into a company called SOAP & CO. Our company THE SOAP CO. has absolutely no connection to SOAP & CO. We are a completely separate company. This is us: https://thesoapco.org.
To celebrate our soap bars being sold in Anthropologie, we’re offering you the chance to win our best-selling bar soap, Black Poppy & Wild Fig.
With naturally exfoliating black poppy seeds you’re going to have a smile on your face as you throw away your plastic loofah for good.