Hounds of love as Chorley’s guide dog Astley graduates

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Lancashire’s newest guide dog Astley has enjoyed a special graduation ceremony and is now ready to embark on a life-changing career.

Following five months of hard work and training with charity Guide Dogs, Astley met his sponsors from Chorley one final time on Wednesday before going on to work as an assistance dog.

Comedian Dave Spikey, front centre, attends the celebration event as Astley (dog on the left), the guide dog puppy funded by the Chorley community, is trained and ready to be matched with someone who is blind or visually impaired, he also announced the name of a second guide dog puppy, Magpie, funded by Chorley community,  at Guide Dog Training School, Atherton.

Comedian Dave Spikey, front centre, attends the celebration event as Astley (dog on the left), the guide dog puppy funded by the Chorley community, is trained and ready to be matched with someone who is blind or visually impaired, he also announced the name of a second guide dog puppy, Magpie, funded by Chorley community, at Guide Dog Training School, Atherton.

And as eighteen month old Astley moves on there is a new signing for Chorley Football Club, the Magpies.

Dave Spikey, Chorley’s double British Comedy Award winner, announced the name of Chorley’s second community puppy as Magpie, named after Chorley FC.

“It is such a pleasure and a privilege to be associated with this wonderful community project and to meet the team behind it, the fundraisers, the trainers, the dogs,” said Dave, who has recently announced new dates in Lancaster, Buxton and Newcastle on his ‘Juggling on a Motorbike’ tour.

“What an amazing job they do and what a fantastic effort from the people of Chorley who not only funded the training of Astley our first community puppy but carried on giving so much that we are now announcing our second puppy Magpie.

“This great effort from the town will not only bring independence to two blind or partially sighted people but also the companionship, love and loyalty of their new dog.

“No exaggeration to say that all those involved have contributed in changing someone’s life for the better.”

Sponsors for another guide dog from Leyland named Worden, after the popular park, will get the chance to meet the pup on Sunday, May 7.

The meet and greet takes place just after 1.30pm at Worden Park, with the mayor of South Ribble councillor Linda Woollard also attending. The community in Chorley raised over £10,000 to name Astley and have been following his progress throughout his training.

The event on Wednesday was attended by comedian Dave, the mayor of Chorley Doreen Dickinson, key campaign donors and members from the community fundraising group. Having met the high standards needed to qualify as a working assistance dog with the charity, Astley will now be matched with a person who is blind or visually impaired this month to then go on and work as a life-changing guide dog.

Wednesday morning included a live demonstration as Astley performed some of the skills and techniques that he has been perfecting through expert training since late last year.

As star of the show, he then took time out to pose for photos with fans and the people that have made his journey a possibility.

Fundraisers in Chorley have now raised another £10,000 to name a second guide dog puppy Magpie. The football club the unborn pup is named after is currently locking horns with Kidderminster in the Vanarama National League North play-offs. Members of Chorley FC were disappointed they could not be at the event but were thrilled to have a guide dog puppy named after their team. With lifetime costs totalling more than £50,000 for every working dog trained, the fundraising achieved to date by the community marks a significant step in helping to change the lives of blind and partially sighted adults and children in the UK.

While Astley awaits his guide dog partner, Chorley braces for the arrival of Magpie, who is yet to be born.

Once here, Magpie will follow in Astley’s paw-steps by joining a guide dog puppy walker before leaving to attend Guide Dog Training School.To find out how to name a puppy call the Manchester Mobility Team on 01189 838 715 or email NameA.Puppy@guidedogs.org.uk

Atherton Guide Dogs Training School will be having their Fun Day on Sunday, May 21. Attendance is free to the public and will provide an opportunity to learn more about the charity and what a difference the dogs make.