A CHARITABLE appeal set up in memory of a guide dog has doubled its initial target raising an impressive £40,000.

In August last year Alan Fletcher, chairman of Swindon Guide Dogs, launched the 4Joy appeal, aiming to raise £20,000 to train four guide dog puppies in memory of his beloved dog Joy.

A year on, more than £40,000 has been raised, enough to fund the initial training for eight guide dog puppies.

Alan, 66, said: “It’s absolutely brilliant. I’m overwhelmed with the response.

“Although I said I wanted to raise £20,000, I didn’t think I would do it in a year. Everybody has just responded to the appeal.

“It’s amazing we’ve managed to raise this much.”

Alan added: “All my family and friends, and people throughout Swindon, have made this possible, and there are still people doing fundraising events.

“This amount could not have been reached without the help and support of the general public who have embraced the appeal.”

Joy regularly appeared at fundraising events for Swindon Guide Dogs in the seven years that she was with Alan.

She was well known after many visits to schools, scout and guide groups and other community gatherings.

She died at the age of eight-and-a-half in May last year after vets found she had an inoperable intestinal tumour.

Alan said: “I think it’s Joy really who inspired everybody.

“So many people knew her and met her because we went to so many events around the town and I think a lot of people remember her.”

He and his wife Shirley were devastated when she died, he said, adding: “I think a lot of other people were too. She gave me my life back and my mobility and my independence.

“Before her I had a cane, and it’s not the same as having a warm four-legged friend walking beside you. You can’t talk to a cane like you can to a guide dog.

“When she died I couldn’t really go out on my own, so it took Shirley’s independence too because she needed to come with me.”

Alan now has a new guide dog, Nutmeg. “I have my independence back again,” he said.

So far, the appeal has paid for the initial training of six new puppies, who have been named Joy, Fletcher, Elsie, Winnie, Craven and Charity. Another puppy is about to be named.

Apart fom Craven, who has not yet been placed with a puppy walker, all are being puppy walked in the Swindon area.

The money will also help fund a second year of training for the puppy Joy.