They say dog is man’s best friend.
Or in this case – woman.
Carol Willacy says her dog Billy is her ‘hero” and having, saved and changed her life, she wouldn’t be without him for the world.
Billy the Jack Russell does everything to make Carol’s life better – including emptying the washing machine, helping her get dressed and even answering the door to visitors.
He has also raised the alarm twice when Carol, 45, had collapsed and needed help.
Carol, from Fleetwood, has severe osteoarthritis, which seriously affects her mobility. She has other mobility problems after a horse-riding accident left her with spinal damage. And she has unexplained extreme fatigue.
She has to use a wheelchair, as she can only walk a few steps.
So if she is, for example, talking on the phone and accidentally drops it, it’s impossible for her to pick it up.
But Carol would only need to call for Billy – who she describes as her “guardian angel” and he would come to pick it up and pass it to her.
Carol said: “Billy is my world, he is everything to me.
“I just think whatever else life throws at me, nothing really matters as long as I have him.
“He does simple things which make a huge difference.
“He is like my hero and PA all rolled in to one, I often feel he runs my life for me!
“If I drop something, he picks it up. He brings the washing out to me to peg on the line, he turns lights on and off and opens and closes doors.
“He can get items for me, when I can’t find them, like my keys or the phone. He helps me take my shoes and coat off when I come into the house.
“And he acts like a bit of a warning system. If I am out shopping, for example, and I get tired, he starts fussing around me – almost to remind me to have a breather and take a rest.
“He really is fantastic.”
Not only is Billy handy around the house, he has played a role in twice helping Carol when she urgently needed it.
Last summer, she was doing some gardening when she became very tired and collapsed.
Billy ran to a neighbour’s house and started pawing at the front door. The neighbour had just accepted a job as Carol’s carer and followed Billy – to find Carol unconsciousness in the garden. He shook her until she came round and was able to help her to bed to recover.
Another time, Carol fainted while getting out of the car on a cold winter’s night.
She eventually came round two hours later to discover Billy licking her face. She believes had he not been doing so, she could have remained unconscious all night in the freezing conditions.
She said: “I feel like the luckiest person to have him in my life. He is a great companion and can be a bit mischievous at times, like any other dog. I like the fact when his coat comes off and he knows he’s not working, he is a bit cheeky – it shows he still has a personality.
“To him, the way he has been trained, it doesn’t feel like work anyway – it’s like a game. And he gets lots of treats and toys because he is so fantastic.”
Carol had initially bought Billy as a pet, but when he was about a year old, she saw an assistance dog on TV and wondered – as Billy was so intelligent and had such a good personality – if he could be taught some of the same skills.
She contacted Support Dogs in Sheffield and, to her delight, after being assessed, Billy was accepted on to the training programme.
After weeks of training and months practising his new skills, he became a fully-qualified assistance dog.
Carol said: “The work Support Dogs do is amazing. And they are struggling for funds. They rely on donations. It costs a lot of money to train up dogs.
“To me, Billy is priceless. So I am planning to do whatever I can to help the charity.”
And Billy could be in the running for a top award. He has been entered into the Drontal Special Roles competition by Drontal, maker of animal worming products. The competition is seeking to find the UK’s most exceptional pets and the winner will receive £500 and feature in a Drontal magazine ad. Visit www.facebook.com/drontaluk
To support the charity, hit www.supportdogs.org.uk.