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Disabled former Ashford soldier John Newcombe given new lease of life by loyal labrador

Blue delivers mail to John Newcombe
Blue delivers mail to John Newcombe

An amazing dog who can open doors and empty the washing machine has given a disabled former soldier a new lease of life.

Two-year-old black labrador Blue will bring his owner John Newcombe the post, can pick up the television remote and even helps him get dressed and undressed.

Mr Newcombe, of Mabledown Avenue, Ashford, was given the special assistance dog by charity Support Dogs after multiple-sclerosis left him wheelchair bound.

The 50-year-old said: "He is perfect for helping me with everyday tasks.

"He picks things up, helps me get undressed and empties the washing machine if I need it doing. He's handy at passing me his feeding bowl too."

The father-of-three said: "When I get up in the morning he will pass me my clothes, which a carer helps me put on and when I go to bed he helps me undress.

"He helps take my shirt and trousers off, he pulls my socks off, he does the lot really.

"When the postman comes he goes and collects the post, but he's a bit clever really.

"He used to get a treat for bringing me the post in one bundle, but he learnt that if he brought it to me in lots of bits he would get more treats.

"There are all these things that he can do, but it's the company as well really."

Ex-soldier John Newcombe's support dog Blue
Ex-soldier John Newcombe's support dog Blue

Before being diagnosed with the neurological condition eight years ago, Mr Newcombe served as a sergeant in the Devon and Dorset Infantry Regiment in Northern Ireland and is going through a medical discharge from the Territorial Army.

As his partner Claire Corner, 34, works full-time as a teacher in Sittingbourne, he found he needed more help around the house during the day.

Mr Necombe initially tried to get his seven-year-old golden labrador Teddy trained as a support dog, but he had arthritis in his elbow so the charity gave him Blue.

Support dog Blue is always by John Newcombe's side
Support dog Blue is always by John Newcombe's side

As a puppy, he was put through six months of training and then Mr Newcombe received training to learn the various commands the support dogs will respond to.

"I take him everywhere I go," he said. "One of the big differences he has made is in the way other people respond to me. In the past they would often ignore me or even get in my way – many people don't know how to respond to somebody in a wheelchair.

"But now they talk to me about Blue and a conversation can develop."

Video: See Blue in action as he helps John Newcombe around the house

For more information about Support Dogs or to make a donation, visit www.support-dogs.org.uk or phone 0114 2617800.

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