Lancashire Dogs - Barney the beagle, Barrow-in-Furness

PUBLISHED: 11:29 18 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:33 20 February 2013

Barney the beagle even empties the drier

Barney the beagle even empties the drier

Emily Rothery meets a dog that's literally good at picking things up

I visit Janice Arthur and Barney at their home in Barrow-in-Furness and Im warmly welcomed into the kitchen where Barney busies himself emptying the tumble-drier, passing each item over to Janice with practised ease. He also brings Janice the mail and fetches and picks up items in his role as Janices helper. He is never far from her side and when there are no jobs to do he lies patiently on his bed, ready for the next command.

Janice was forced to retire because of serious back problems in 1994 and 12 years later chose Barney, a seven month old beagle pup, as a pet and companion. It was at obedience classes that Barneys true potential was spotted and he then went on to qualify as an assistance dog through the Dog Aid charity where his training was adapted to Janices needs. Barney progressed through three levels of intensive training to reach the required level of competence and steadfastness.

Janice wears a spinal brace and cannot bend so Barneys help is invaluable around the house and in the wider environment when Janice uses a wheelchair. He helps with the shopping by passing items from low shelves and has saved the day on many an occasion by picking up Janices crutches, dropped keys and money. Dogs, I am informed, do not like the feel of metal in their mouths but Barney never hesitates if he knows that Janice is depending on him and will pick up every coin.

He will deftly pass Janice the straps that enable her to load her wheelchair into the vehicle and obligingly give her back his lead if dropped when on an outing.

Barney, of course, doesnt realise the importance of his job, but willingly does all of these things to please his mistress; knowing that he has done the right thing, a kind word and the occasional small treat are rewards enough.

Janice, in her characteristic positive way, explains how her life has changed so much for the better with Barney as a companion. Above all Barney gives her confidence and his daily walks ensure that Janice meets people in the local lanes, shops and cafes. I have made lots of new friends through Barney, Janice adds with a smile. She then proudly shows me photographs of Barney starring as the runner-up in a national Search for a Super Dog competition.

Wherever Janice goes, Barney goes too, be it a trip to the doctors, an important meeting, a wedding or holiday. Barney is used to attention and his calm demeanour means that children and other dogs, even unruly ones, respond accordingly. He is totally dependable and has inspired Janice to take a course with The Association of Pet Trainers so that she can help others.

As I leave, Barney jumps obligingly onto the chair so that Janice can clip on his lead. They walk with me to the car and then it is time for Janice to lie down for an hour as she does every afternoon with Barney, her devoted dog, snuggled unbidden alongside her.

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