PHOENIX is only five months old, but she has already started her journey towards potentially saving somebody’s life, as she trains to be a qualified Guide Dog.

The labrador is the latest puppy to be funded by the 4Joy Appeal, set up by the chairman of the Swindon Guide Dogs, Alan Fletcher, in memory of his beloved Guide Dog Joy, who died following a short illness last year.

She has been named Phoenix by the Rotary Club of Swindon, which raised the £5,000 necessary to pay for the initial training of a Guide Dog puppy.

Eight weeks after little Phoenix was born, she went to live with Anne Cole in Lydiard Millicent, where she will stay for about a year before beginning her formal training.

“All puppy walkers do is give the puppies a home and make sure they understand the basic commands that anybody might give, like sit, wait, lie down, drop,” said Anne.

“We make sure they are healthy and have plenty of exercise and so when they are needed they are ready to start their formal Guide Dog training.

“And it’s a real privilege to be able to do that, and there is a great sense of trust that’s been given to me with their precious puppy.”

Anne first got involved in the cause after finding out just how much of a difference Guide Dogs could make to somebody’s life.

She said: “I met somebody just in passing who told me how grateful he was for the puppy walkers because the time they had put saved his life. It gave him his independence and his freedom back.

“I’m a country girl and I grew up with dogs and horses and I was always surrounded by them, so training dogs and being disciplined came easy to me.

“We’ve always supported raising money for Guide Dogs and it was something that I wanted to be involved in.

“It isn’t just about what we’re giving back though, Phoenix gives a lot to us. She enhances our lives and it is very rewarding. My reward is that we have the play time and also the joy in giving her that very basic training.”

Anne knows that Phoenix will eventually move on from her training, but still believes it is an incredibly valuable and rewarding time spent with Phoenix.

“Obviously it will be tough because I’m not devoid of emotions when it comes to Phoenix but you are aware when you start that she will become a Guide Dog, and it becomes about making sure you prepare her for her future.”