Some of the regulars have lost family members, and meeting the group has been a lifeline.
Not everyone here has their own pet, but they all love being around the dogs.
Lynne Patterson, co-founder of Friends of Stanley Park dog club started the group in 2018. She’d noticed a lot of people in the park said that taking their dogs for a walk was the only social interaction they had. So she wanted to help bring them together.
She said: “It seemed unfair that the dogs were in the park 365 days a year and didn’t have anywhere to meet. A lot of people were on their own with dogs, and they go around and don’t talk to each other. So this brought people together.”
And Lynne, who is married to chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park and Salisbury Woodland, Nigel Patterson, believes in the healing power of dogs.
She added: “If I walk my grandson in the park, nobody talks to you. If I bring the dog, people want to pet it and say hello. That’s the best thing ever.”
The group has grown from a few regulars, and now fills the visitor centre most weeks.
Carol Williams has been going to the club since it started four years ago.
The 65 year old widow visits every week with her two Yorkshire Terriers, Sox and Ruby.
She said: “I was having a bad year. I’d lost my husband and my son, and then when I saw the sign for dog club I fancied giving it a go.
“I wasn’t getting out much so I was nervous. The first day I just sat in a corner on my own but it’s completely changed my life.
I’ve made so many friends, which I’d never have done before. We’ve all got dogs in common, we all love seeing each others’ dogs and the camaraderie is wonderful.”
And the pandemic didn’t keep the club apart. While they couldn’t meet at the visitor centre, the friends would meet in all weathers and sit with flasks in the park.
They also kept in touch via a WhatsApp group, and gained new members during the pandemic.
Pam Berry started going for daily walks around Stanley Park after her husband passed away in 2020. She got talking to the dog club members and they talked her into going along.
“I don’t have a dog, but I love being around the dogs and this is such a great place to socialise. At first I thought ‘I can’t go to dog club without a dog’ but I’m so glad I came. If it hadn’t been for this, I’d be a lot more lonely.”
The club also fundraises for Friends of Stanley Park. While it’s free to attend, they sell hot drinks, cakes and sometimes hold raffles and special events.
Nigel Patterson said: “We were taking £10 a week at first, now it’s about £80 so it’s raised about £5000 for the park. This will go towards the repair of the Cocker Clock and the trellis work in the Italian Gardens.