Championing dogs: helping dogs

Yellow labrador Yancy saved owner Paul Thomas from a nasty accident last year, by stopping him from walking out in front of a car, to become Guide Dog of the Year. Paul, who is registered blind, and his partner, Nikki Merchant, were waiting at a pedestrian crossing in their home town of Ipswich when the lights turned green. Nikki stepped into the road, but Yancy refused to budge, keeping Paul on the pavement.

Seconds later, Nikki was hit by a car and carried 30ft down the road. Paul was distressed, but four-year-old Yancy kept them both calm, leading him to Nikki and waiting for the ambulance to arrive. ‘Yancy is incredible, we’re lucky to have her and we’re so grateful to Guide Dogs for bringing her into our lives,’ he says. ‘She’s given me so much confidence and independence, and on that terrible night that Nikki had the accident, she was there for both of us.’

Guide Dogs (0118-983 5555; is the largest breeder of working dogs in the world, producing up to 1,500 puppies a year at its breeding centre in Warwickshire since 1959.

It’s 6.30am, it’s Monday and it’s a school day. The alarm sounds. No one stirs. That is until Jasmine the cocker-poo (cocker spaniel x poodle) leaps into action. Waking owner Sue Churchyard, who is deaf, so that she can get her two sons up is just one of the things that the three-year-old dog does every day. She’s a hearing dog for deaf people, and has lived with Sue and her family in West Sussex for two years.

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Jasmine has such a ‘personable, friendly’ nature that ‘the supermarket shop now takes double the time, as Jasmine insists on stopping to talk to everyone’. She came to Sue from Hearing Dogs (01844 348100;, which trains dogs to respond to noises by touching their owners before leading them to the source. If the noise indicates danger, such as a smoke alarm, the dog will lie down, having got its owner’s attention. Jasmine was recognised in the charity’s Hearing Dogs for Deaf People Awards 2011 as one of three finalists in the Life Changing category. ‘She’s my best friend.’

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