Bess the border collie is a vital companion for her blind friend Roy

Great British Life: Bes and Roy with Richard and KarenBes and Roy with Richard and Karen (Image: Emily Rothery)

You would be hard pressed to find two sweeter, more affectionate dogs than Bess and Roy, yet life has had its challenges for these lovable border collies. The pair were rescued by the RSPCA when they were found tied up in a Lake District wood. It is believed that they had previously been working collies on a farm whose owner was no longer been able to look after them so the search for a new owner began with one proviso – that Bess and Roy stay together, especially as Roy is blind and relies on his buddy Bess to help him navigate the world around him.

After careful consideration, the RSPCA found a forever home that fitted the unique needs of the inseparable pair. Richard and Karen, who live in South Cumbria, were making tentative enquiries via the internet and realised they were in a good position to take on the dogs. ‘We knew it was a good time in our lives and we had outside buildings where the dogs could sleep as they were suited to outside accommodation. We were just making initial enquires but somehow, we got caught up in a whirlwind and before we knew it Roy and Bess were here. I do think that’s a sign that it was meant to be,’ says Karen.

The bond between the dogs and their new owners, after only a few weeks, is remarkably strong. ‘It’s what I would have envisaged for them,’ says the Westmorland RSPCA branch manager Christine Lowe. ‘They’ve really fallen on their feet and will live happily to the end of their days at their new home.’

‘They have been affectionate from the word go,’ says Richard as Roy lies in a state of bliss enjoying belly rubs. In return, the dogs get all the creature comforts and affection they crave and are relaxed and happy.

It is heart-warming to watch as Roy follows Bess and to see he has even mastered the stone steps on a stile which lies on the footpath near the house. As they cross the field, it’s clear that both dogs, despite their age, are young at heart, inquisitive and full of energy.

Richard says: ‘Roy is blind in one eye and is seriously impaired in the other so can probably only see car headlights. He does bump into things but Bess acts as his guide, although she does boss him about and will help herself to his food if she gets the chance.’

It’s clear that this kind- hearted couple have put a lot of thought and patience into settling the dogs into their new home. At nine-years-old, the elderly dogs knew some basic commands but are learning new tricks and improving their recall and obedience. There is a real synergy between the dogs and their humans.

Richard adds: ‘Having the dogs has brought about a change in lifestyle for us. Increased walking has improved our physical fitness and our mental wellbeing. I had a serious accident through car racing in 2014 and broke my spine. To walk without thinking has taken me about five or six years and it may just be coincidence but there has been greater improvement since walking the dogs regularly.’

‘We have other benefits too,’ says Karen,’ Now when we are walking them at night, we switch off our head torches to see the stars which is just amazing. We would have missed that if we were just inside. We also get a really enthusiastic, excited welcome if we’ve been out and come home.’

But the final proof that the dogs have truly settled in is when they visit the local pub. ‘At first when they came with us, they would stand by us for reassurance but now when we go, they will flop happily onto the floor which shows they are truly relaxed.’

Give a dog a home

The lockdown has led to some changes for the RSPCA re-homing services. To find potential pets near you and the latest on the charity’s process for adopting and fostering animals, go online to