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Litter-picking Tonbridge dog owner insists he will return to keep parks clean despite cancer diagnosis

The owner of a dog who made headlines for helping keep parks clean of rubbish insists the two of them will be back picking litter soon, despite him being diagnosed with cancer.

Gary Longley and sprocker spaniel Lulu sprang to stardom earlier this year, when they received an award from Tonbridge and Malling Council for their contribution to the community.

Every Sunday, he takes her to one of the local parks, usually Tonbridge Racecourse, for a three-hour shift, in which time she can collect up to six black sacks of rubbish.

However, Gary's world was rocked when just days after picking up the gong, he was told he had Burkitt lymphoma - a stomach cancer that was expected to leave him with only weeks left to live.

"I've been in and out of Maidstone Hospital for the last three months," the 55-year-old said.

"But I had a growth on my stomach that was just growing and growing and they didn't think I was going to survive."

Lulu the litter picking dog with owner Gary Longley. Picture: Andy Jones
Lulu the litter picking dog with owner Gary Longley. Picture: Andy Jones

Gary was then referred to Hospice in the Weald for end-of-life care but staff quickly insisted he should return to hospital for more treatment, where he currently remains.

He says he is slowly getting some strength back and has pledged to return to litter picking as soon as he can, but at the moment it is simply a case of taking each day as it comes.

"It's been a really horrible process, but the last thing I want is for people to think I'd just picked up the award and stopped bothering," said Gary, who lives in Camp Hill, Charcott with his wife Lynn.

Gary Longley trained Lulu to pick up litter in their local park two years ago
Gary Longley trained Lulu to pick up litter in their local park two years ago

"Lulu is at home with my wife and she's getting frustrated because she wants to be out there helping to clean up again.

"I feel like I've been given a second chance and I want to take advantage of that."

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