A brave Blackpool guide dog which saved her owner from a house fire is up for a national award.
Nicky Askew, who is registered blind after her sight gradually deteriorated, was alerted to the danger by her panicked canine helper Tillie, who spotted the flames and made sure everyone got out of the house safely.
The 45-year-old, of Brentwood Avenue, Anchorsholme, spoke of her amazement after her guide dog rushed upstairs to get her attention.
She had put her children to bed and her husband was working in the kitchen when the fire broke out in the dining room.
Mrs Askew said: “Earlier this year, around June, Tillie woke my children up by whimpering and shaking.
“We went downstairs so that I could take her outside and that’s when we saw the flames in the dining room.
“My husband and I sprang into action, trying to control the fire as best we could.”
Tillie’s quick thinking meant she was able to warn her owners even before the fire alarm had gone off.
Mrs Askew added: “(The fire) was still small enough at that stage that we were able to tackle it without calling the fire brigade. Meanwhile Tillie was frantically nudging my left hand, the one I hold her harness in, encouraging me to get to safety.
“To this day, I cannot believe what she did for us. There is no doubt in my mind Tillie was trying to get us out of the house that night.
“She knew something was wrong and wouldn’t rest until my family and I were safe. I feel so proud and lucky to have her.”
Thanks to Tillie, Mrs Askew was able to get out of the house, along with husband John and their children Jodie, 13, and James, 10.
The 45-year-old also credits her guide dog, a golden retriever cross labrador, with helping her lose almost four stone.
Tillie’s arrival gave her the confidence and independence to shed the weight she had gained since she began to lose her sight.
Mrs Askew added: “The more vision I lost, the more weight I gained. I would stay at home during the day and eat everything I could get my hands on, just for comfort
“It felt like my life was in darkness and there was no way out. That was until Tillie came along.
“She was the spark that lit my fuse and from there my life burst into light, colour and beauty. We have been together about three years – she really is an amazing dog.”
Now the pair have been nominated in two separate categories – Beyond the Call of Duty and Guide Dog of the Year – at next month’s Guide Dogs Annual Awards 2015.
Emma Allen-Taylor, Engagement Officer for charity Guide Dogs said: “We don’t train our dogs to alert their owners to fire. The bond between Nicky and Tillie is so strong and it really is astonishing how Tillie really has gone beyond the call of duty to keep Nicky and her family safe.”