A devastated owner has paid tribute to the wonder dog who saved her life so many times.
Wendy Hilling lost her inseparable assistance dog companion Teddy to cancer on May 5, aged 13-and-a-half.
Many people in North Devon will remember the golden retriever, provided by the Canine Partners charity, as Wendy and her husband Peter live at Yelland for many years and were a familiar sight on the Tarka Trail.
In Wendy’s words, Teddy (full name Edward), literally saved her life ‘over and over’ by raising the alarm when she stopped breathing during the night, as well as occasions when she collapsed at home.
The 71-year-old lives with a chronic condition called EB that not only causes her skin to blister or break at the slightest touch, but can also cause her airway to swell shut.
Teddy was trained to wake Peter at night if her breathing stopped, as well as to use a call button that would alert the ambulance service.
But he also helped hugely day to day, doing everything from helping her to undress and take shoes off to loading and unloading the washing machine, handing her bus pass to drivers and even taking money out of the cash point.
She wrote a book of their journey together called My Life in His Paws, which has now been produced in five different languages.
She and Peter moved to Morecambe a few years ago and last year were joined by new Canine Partner retriever Carmen, now aged two, who began to assume Teddy’s duties and learn from the master.
Wendy said Teddy’s loss had left a huge hole for all of them. She said: “Words can never express the sorrow I feel. He was the kindest, funniest and most loyal gentle dog you could ever wish to meet.”
He had been living with cancer and visited North Devon last year to meet some of his old friends for what might be the final time.
But his final illness was very sudden. Wendy said: “He developed cancer of the liver and was only sick for five days. On the Sunday he was not well, Monday was very poorly and on the Tuesday they had to put him to sleep.
“Carmen didn’t want to leave Teddy’s side, on his last Sunday and on the Monday she lay with him the whole day. She knew. She knew more than we did.
“Carmen and Teddy hit it off from the moment they met, they just played together straight away. I think she learned a lot from Ted and she is just the most gentle dog I could wish for.”
Thanks to Canine Partners she arrived fully trained but has gone on to learn new tasks that are specific to Wendy’s needs.
When Wendy would stop breathing at night, Teddy would tug at Peter’s pillow to wake him up, but Wendy said Carmen’s tactic appears to be to jump bodily on to the bed.
Before they moved away, Teddy and Wendy appeared regularly in the North Devon Gazette, including the time he won an award from the PDSA charity for his devotion and life-saving abilities.
And of course we reported on Wendy’s book, which covered her early life as well as her life with Teddy and also helped to raise the profile of EB (epidermolysis bullosa), a rare genetic condition.
Many people in North Devon were familiar with the sight of Teddy in his purple Canine Partners coat.
Wendy said: “Ted was a good boy, he was also a Pets as Therapy dog, he became a school reading dog – wherever he went, everybody loved him.
“Carmen did copy him. She was a proper little shadow, the magician’s assistant.”
Wendy is hoping to write a second book to continue the story of her journey with Teddy and Carmen.
Wendy has set up a JustGiving page in Ted’s memory to raise money for Canine Partners. Anyone who would like to donate can do so at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wendy-hilling1 .