19 January 2004
Western Morning News
When Virginia Williams tells her dog to fetch, he doesn't just bring back a stick.
Lee the Labrador retriever cross is more likely to empty laundry from the washing machine or pick up the phone when it rings.
The clever six-year-old canine is multiple sclerosis sufferer Virginia's lifeline. She said: "Without him I wouldn't be able to live on my own."
Virginia, from Torquay, was united with Lee five years ago, when she picked him up from the charity Dogs for the Disabled. Trained in basic commands, he was keen to learn new tricks in return for the odd treat and lavish praise.
She said: "He's so easy to train. He's very eager to please. All he wants is for people to tell him how good and clever he is. He'd do anything for that, preferably with a reward at the end."
With Virginia making sure training was fun, Lee's repertoire was soon expanded well beyond "sit" and "stay". Now his mistress can rely on him to bring the alarm which links her to an emergency call line if she is in difficulty.
"I used to wear it round my neck, but it was always going off accidentally. The operators would call me up all the time to make sure I was OK. Now Lee just brings it over when I need it."
Lee's patience, which makes him a perfect playmate for children and even babies, is a major asset in his companionship with Virginia, who suffers from tremors. She said: "When I drop something, Lee will be right there to give it back to me. If I drop it five times in a row he makes sure I have a good hold on it before he lets go."
But, like the rest of us, Lee appreciates the odd break.
Virginia said: "We stayed at my Mum's where there were other dogs and lots of people. He didn't do any work while we were there. He was a regular pet."
Lee and Virginia are inseparable. He sleeps under the table at meetings of the Westcountry Housing Association, of which she is a board member, he enjoys a fuss from friends at St John Ambulance gatherings and he even accompanies her on hospital visits.
Virginia said: "He finds out which ward I'm in and comes belting down the corridor.
"He's got it wrong once or twice and burst in on someone else's room,
but he wears his "Dogs For the Disabled" coat so they know he's a working
© Copyright 2004, Western Morning News