A Darlington business owner has taken a shine to 10-month-old guide dog hopeful Ralph and is set to support him with training.

Darek Lancaster, who operates oven cleaning service Ovenu Darlington decided to help fund "sweet and charming" Ralph and his training after their last mentee black lab Selsey developed a hip weakness and could not continue with training.

Golden retriever/Labrador cross Ralph is currently spending time with puppy raisers Toni and Adrian and in just a few months will be considered for full guide dog training.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Ralph the dog.Ralph the dog. (Image: Ovenu Salisbury)

Should he pass, he could be considered to be a full-time guide dog to a visually impaired person.

62-year-old veteran Derek said: "Guide Dogs is a fantastic charity and I’m pleased to be able to give something back by supporting its life-changing work.

"These dogs provide those with sight loss greater mobility, independence, social interaction - as well as companionship.

"It’s also a way of saying a huge thank you to my clients who, without their continued support, I wouldn’t be in a position to sponsor this adorable pup!"


Darlington and Stockton Times: Derek Lancaster.Derek Lancaster. (Image: OVENU)

So far, Ralph's caretakers say he is brilliant at boarding public transport and is confident in busy environments whilst his food manners are "almost there".

Guide Dogs’ CEO Andrew Lennox said: “It costs approximately £56,000 to support each guide dog through from birth to retirement, and without all the contributions of our donors and the efforts of our fundraisers we would not be able to do what we do.”